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  • Place of origin:

    Spitalfields (textile, weaving)
    England (gown, sewing)

  • Date:

    1760-1769 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ensemble represents a popular style of informal dress for women in the 1760s. Known by the French name ‘pet-en-l’air’, it comprises a short sack worn over a petticoat. The silk is very unusual, bearing three different methods of decoration: weaving, embroidery and paint.

When Beatrix Potter was writing one of her books for children, The Tailor of Gloucester, in 1903, she visited the Museum for inspiration on 18th-century dress. This is one of the garments she was shown. In The Tailor of Gloucester there appears a little mouse wearing this splendid ensemble with a mob cap.

Physical description

A woman's pet en l'air or ensemble of short sack and petticoat. Both are made of ivory silk figured in a leaf design and brocaded with a leaf motif in silk thread in shades of green, silver--gilt strip and thread. The silk is further embellished with painted flowers. The sack has two double box pleats at the back and a single box pleat on either side of the open front. The sleeves are elbow-length with double sleeve ruffles. The sleeves are lined with unbleached linen and the bodice has a loose lining of unbleached linen, open at the back with three ties on each side, and one tie on each side at the bottom front of the lining. A gathered ruffle of silk edges the front, neck and bottom hem.

The petticoat is made of five widths of silk and pleated to the waist. A narrow ruffle and a deep one edge the bottom of the petticoat. The original ribbon binding the waist has been replaced with a modern cotton tape.

Place of Origin

Spitalfields (textile, weaving)
England (gown, sewing)


1760-1769 (made)



Descriptive line

A woman's pet-en-l'air, 1760s, English of ivory silk, figured, brocaded, embroidered, painted. Inspiration for Beatrix Potter's book, The Tailor of Gloucester.


Fashion; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type



Textiles and Fashion Collection

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