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Brown robe a l’Anglaise

Damask robe a l’Anglaise with floral pattern, 18th century

Damask robe a l’Anglaise with floral pattern, 18th century

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Woman's dress, English gown, or robe à l'Anglaise retroussée in light brown silk with weft-patterned design in dark cream silk of meandering vine branches in the style of a damask (19½" wide with red and green striped selvedge). Closed bodice with wide decolletage, constructed with two front panels with evidence of robing pleats at front, fastening centre front with hooks and eyes (later additions), flat v-shaped point at centre front. Elbow-length sleeves with shaped cuffs decorated with a narrow band of ruched and pinked silk. Back constructed four pieced panels with narrow v-shape at centre back waist. Over skirt attached to waist with small pleats, constructed from five widths of silk sewn selvedge to selvedge (original cream linen running stitch at bottom half of seams, later seam in cream linen backstitch). Open at front, three sets of internal sets of tapes to tie skirt up, hem unpicked. Bodice lined with linen, evidence of panel around inside hem of skirt (late nineteenth-century lining removed earlier).

An initial glance at this dress suggests that it is made from brown damask silk. Damasks are a type of fabric that is woven with its design created by alternating the shiny front and dull reverse sides of a satin weave. However, whilst the material here is woven using the front and back sides of this technique the design is highlighted by using a lighter shade of brown threads for the weft threads than that used for the warp threads. This has the advantage of making the flowers slightly easier to see.

Damasks were a popular choice for making into gowns during the 1740s and early 1750s. As they only used one shade of colour there were slightly cheaper than the multi-coloured silks, such as brocades, and were a popular chose for informal day dresses rather than evening gowns. Many were altered later in the century, including this example that was remade as a robe a l’Anglaise or English gown in the 1770s or early 1780s.

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