Your Weekend Wow!

I am on the verge of cutting a muslin for my Late Georgian overdress so I’ve been scanning images of extant garments, looking for ideas on how to make mine a bit less ordinary, and I keep coming back to a handful that consistently catch my eye. This is one of them.

This Late Georgian evening overdress combines two of my favorite fabric treatments: pintucks and ikat weaving. While the colors in and of themselves don’t make much of a splash, their use in woven ikat stripes adds a bit of boldness and balances them with their boring beige background. The tidy vertical rows of pintucks on the back bodice add another layer of texture and the looped buttons are a delightful surprise.

Evening Overdress. 1797–99, British, made of silk and linen. Length at center back is 71 inches (180.3 cm). Accession number: 2009.300.2198a, b. Click on for a link to the museum website. All photos copyright Unfortunately, there is no photograph of the front or a detail shot of the sleeves (which appear somehow folded or pleated or otherwise arranged).

Picture 029 - right_side_back

Picture 008

Here’s what the museum curator had to say:

This lovely overdress indicates the fine craftsmanship and textiles used at the end of the 18th century to coordinate with the exaggerated fashions of the high waist, large headdresses and skimpy silhouettes.

The Empire silhouette is readily identified with its origins in the chiton of ancient Greco-Romans, which was a tubular garment draped from the shoulders and sometimes belted beneath the bust. Several re-interpretations have occurred throughout costume history but none have been as notable as the period bridging the rectangular panierred skirts of the 18th century and the conical hoop skirts of the 19th century. The neoclassic style was adopted in all forms of decoration after the French Revolution and was upheld during the Napoleonic Wars partly due to Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1769-1821) alliance with Greco-Roman principles. In fashion, the style began as children’s wear made from fine white cotton, but was adopted by women in the form of a tubular dress with skirts that were gathered under the bust with some fullness over a pad at the back. As the style progressed the skirts began to flatten at the front and solely gather from the bodice at the center back. The style persisted until the 1820s when the waist slowly lowered and the skirts became more bell shaped. - displayed_on_mannequin

As it appears on a mannequin with what looks to be a fichu that is crossed in front and tied in back at the high waist.


4 thoughts on “Your Weekend Wow!

  1. I think the sleeves might be arranged to have open areas where the arm can be seen through them like those in this fashion plate from 1800:

    But I agree it is hard to see.

    I always find myself wishing museums would put up more photos of everything, but then I take a deep breath and remind myself that it takes time and money and the costumes have to be mounted before they can be photographed and photographing them can be damaging. Sigh. Still… I’d love to have more photos of everything. 🙂

    • You could very well be right – there is enough folding and pleating going on that open areas make sense. I also get frustrated with museum photographs and, like you, understand the delicate balance point they must work within. However, even if a specific feature can’t be photographed, it would be nice if it was mentioned in the curator’s description: “The sleeves are open down the outer mid-line to show the upper arm, connected at regular intervals with pleated cross-bands of the main fabric.” Or something like that. A good demonstration of why I’m not a museum curator. 😉 I always want more photographs.

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