This elegant robe and petticoat are fine examples of a woman's formal daywear in the early 1760s. In cut, fabric and design they were the height of fashion.
Materials & Making
The pattern on the silk is hand-painted. The fabric was first sized with alum to make the paint adhere. Next the design was drawn freehand in ink or silverpoint. A variety of pigments were used, including white lead or a chalk ground for the highlights. The robe and petticoat are hand sewn with silk thread and trimmed with gathered strips of the hand-painted silk.
The style and design of this ensemble exemplify the Rococo fashion in dress. The pale yellow silk painted in a variety of bright colours reflects the Rococo palette, while the scalloped sleeve cuffs and gathered robings create a decorative surface pattern. The robe is a sack back (a style of gown with the fabric at the back arranged in box pleats at the shoulders and falling loose to the floor with a slight train), and would have been worn with a wide square hoop under the petticoat.
The silk was woven and painted in China. The width of the fabric and the use of coloured threads in the selvedge (the cloth edge) differ from European silks. The floral pattern shows the influence of Western design, indicating that it was made expressly for the European market.