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Dress

1799/1800

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The radically different silhouette of the last years of the eighteenth century was intended as an imitation of classical Greek and Roman dress. Basically, a soft, thin chemise of cotton or linen that almost fully revealed the breasts, the Empire gown was not universally embraced, if this uncharitable 1790s evaluation is to be believed: "The bosom, which Nature planted at the bottom of her chest, is pushed up by means of wadding and whalebone to a station so near her chin that in a very full nature that feature is sometimes lost between invading mounds. … were it not for the fine apparel of our ladies we should be at a loss … whether they were nurses or cooks."

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