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  • Place of origin:

    India (textile, made)
    England (gown, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Muslin, embroidered in cotton thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This gown is made of very fine muslin embroidered with a floral pattern. The sheer fabric did not offer much warmth, so these gowns were frequently worn under cashmere shawls draped over the shoulders and arms.

Historical Associations
The classical revival, which affected architecture from the 1760s and painting from the 1770s, made its mark on fashion rather later. Its influence on dress begins with the history paintings of the leading French Neo-classicist, Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), and theatre costume for plays with plots based on events connected with ancient Rome and Greece. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) popularised a particular type of artistic dress, mainly high-waisted, plain white gowns, in imitation of classical dress. Although in the 1770s these were seen only in portraits, they foreshadow the style of dress that women actually wore in the 1790s.

By the 1780s, a preference for white and more linear textile patterns became evident in women's fashion. However, the high waistline and skirts unsupported by hoops did not appear until 1795. There are other 'non-classical' sources for these changes in women's fashions, such as the chemise dress of the 1780s and the very plain style of dress worn by little girls from the 1760s onwards.

India was the traditional source for the very fine cotton used in dress up to the early 19th century. Although Britain made great progress in the development of a native cotton manufacturing industry in the late 18th century, the delicately embroidered muslins were still imported from India.

Physical description

Embroidered muslin gown

Place of Origin

India (textile, made)
England (gown, made)


ca. 1800 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Muslin, embroidered in cotton thread


Height: 162.56 cm including train, Width: 25.4 cm across shoulders, Length: 165 cm shoulder to tip of train, Depth: 6 cm despth of centre front bodice, Circumference: 80.5 cm circumference e under bust

Object history note

Fabric made in India, gown made in England

Descriptive line

High waisted dress with train. The petticoat or underdress associated with this dress (T.785A-1913) is of a later date (1870).

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Women's dress changed dramatically after 1795. The rich fabrics and complicated, formal shapes of the late 18th century gave way to simple, light fabrics that draped easily. These new gowns achieved something of the effect of the simple tunics shown on classical Greek and Roman statues or vases. [27/03/2003]






Clothing; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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