A Look at my Favorite Extant Francaise Gown (c.1765)

May 10, 2019


I first came across this magnificent dress a couple of years ago, while I was researching a gown I wanted to make. It struck me immediately because, well, just look at it.



 At first glance, it may not seem like anything particularly special. There are tons of ivory gowns from the 18th century, what’s so special about this one?  The thing I initially loved about it was the was the furbelows were patterned on the gown front. I liked the little puffings, and the way they overlapped the wider ruched trim and ended in little bells. It was hard to see a lot of details from the first photo I found of the gown, but I loved it all the same, and it’s been the inspiration for the trimming several of my own gowns.

Then, I was lucky enough to find an online catalog from a fashion exhibit at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, where this gown is housed. This wonderful interactive booklet had dozens of extremely high-resolution images of their collection, and I finally got a better look at the details of this stunning dress.


The gown fabric is a lampas silk with a subtle woven floral design. There are stripes of silver metal thread woven horizontally, as well as woven silver leaves and flowers. The furbelows are all trimmed with metallic silver lace, as are the front edges of the skirt, and the hem of the petticoat. The bells that I initially saw on the low-res photo turned out to be pompoms of silver lace.




The pattern of the fabric has been carefully cut so the subtle woven pattern runs vertically on the outside of the sleeve. (I love the way the fabric looks like birch bark in this photo.)

In the back, the dress has a modest train, and those fabulous Watteau pleats.


Tragically, the dress is behind a pillar in the online gallery, so we don’t get a great look at it. We do a tantalizing look at a pair of matching shoes, which unfortunately are not on the museum's website, and I haven't been able to find any better images of them anywhere online, though I swear I have seen them before. (If anyone has better images of the shoes, please let me know!)

If you want to get a closer look at the dress online, the museum page has a good description of the dress, and the online catalog has some wonderful closeup images where you get to see a lot of detail.

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