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Sack back

  • Place of origin:

    France (textile, embroidered)
    England, Great Britain (fancy dress, altered)

  • Date:

    1775-1780 (embroidered)
    1775 - 1780 (sewing)
    1870 - 1910 (altered)

  • Artist/Maker:

    unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, linen, silk thread, linen thread, metal, whalebone; hand-woven silk, ribbon and fringe, hand-sewn, hand-made bobbin lace

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss Louise Band

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an example of the most formal ensemble for a woman in the late 1770s, except for court dress. It is a sack-back gown, worn over square hoops and very elaborately decorated. Feathers, lace, raffia tassels and lengths of satin embellish an already embroidered satin. The pale colours, small floral motifs and light application of the decorations show that the influence of the Rococo style was beginning to wane.

Physical description

A woman's sack back (robe à la francaise) and petticoat of cream silk satin tamboured with silk twist and silk chenille in multi-coloured floral sprigs. The sack back is open at the front with elbow-length sleeves and double, scalloped sleeve ruffles. The bodice fronts meet in the centre. There are two, double box pleats, stitched at the neck line, extending into a train at the back. A waistseam runs from front to the pleats at the back; the skirts at the back pleated. The skirts extend at the side for a wide square hoop. The pocket openings have a casing for a drawstring. The bodice and sleeves are lined with unbleached linen; the back lining open with worked eyelets threaded with linen tape for adjusting. The sack back is made of 7 widths of silk; the skirts are lined with white silk taffeta. The sleeve ruffles are trimmed with white silk bobbin lace. The fronts of the skirts are decorated with padded bands of blue satin, white silk bobbin lace and net, chenille fringe with tassels of flowers made of looped ribbon, feathers and raffia tassels, arranged in a serpentine line

The petticoat is made of 3 widths of silk, pleated at the waist and decorated in the same manner as the sack back.

Both garments were altered for fancy dress in the late 19th century. Darts (now unpicked) were made in the bodice fronts, and the white taffeta ruching around the neck was probably added then. Hooks, eyes and whalebone strips were added to the bodice fronts. The waist pleating of the petticoat was unpicked to lengthen it and 3 panels of the petticoat back were removed. These have been reconstructed for museum display.

Place of Origin

France (textile, embroidered)
England, Great Britain (fancy dress, altered)


1775-1780 (embroidered)
1775 - 1780 (sewing)
1870 - 1910 (altered)


unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Silk, linen, silk thread, linen thread, metal, whalebone; hand-woven silk, ribbon and fringe, hand-sewn, hand-made bobbin lace


Width: 45.0 cm silk, selvedge to selvedge
[Petticoat] Length: 100.0 cm waist to hem at centre front, Width: 160.0 cm at hem
[Sack back] Length: 195.0 cm shoulder to hem at centre back, Circumference: 85.5 cm bust under armholes

Object history note

Parallels to this rich melange can be found among the sample embroideries at the Musee des Tissus in Lyon (nos B.874, 878, 880).

Historical context note

In the engraving 'Les Adieux', J.M. Moreau le Jeune shows a dress of similar cut and style of decoration.
Copy of it in PDP in pressmark EL51

Descriptive line

A woman's sack back and petticoat, 1775-1780, French; cream silk satin tamboured with silk and chenille, ribbon, fringe, lace trim, altered 1870-1910

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Natalie Rothstein, Four Hundred Years of Fashion (V&A Publications, 1984), p. 126.


Silk (textile); Silk thread; Linen (material); Linen thread; Feathers; Ribbon, silk; Raffia


Hand sewing; Satin weave; Hand weaving; Hand embroidery


Women's clothes; Formal wear; Fashion; Embroidery; Lace; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection code


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