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Fashionable British dress from the early decades of the nineteenth century reveals a fascination with historical styles. Drawing inspiration from literature, theater costumes, and history paintings of medieval and Renaissance subjects, dressmakers incorporated stylistic details from twelfth- through seventeenth-century dress into contemporary fashions. The decoratively slashed sleeves of the sixteenth century, through which linen undershirts were loosely drawn, inspired puffed trimmings such as the bouillons of fine white lawn that encircle the hem of this 1820s dress. Historicized elements such as these reflect a nostalgia for Britain’s past, evoking romantic notions of the chivalry or patriotism of earlier eras. The wool crewel-embroidered holly boughs at the hem indicate that the dress was worn in winter, when the plant’s berries and foliage provided welcome color and featured prominently in Christmas decorations.

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