Gown thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Gown

1797-1805 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This plain white cotton gown embodies the ideals of neo-classicism in dress. Imitations of such clothing appeared in fancy dress and portraiture from the late 1760s, inspired by images of Greek and Roman dress published in the mid-18th century. A similar style of gown had been worn by little girls from the 1750s. The neo-classical style first emerges as fashionable dress in France, influenced by the political ideals of the French Revolution.

In construction, late 18th-century neo-classical gowns resemble earlier styles of women’s dress. There was no surviving Greek and Roman clothing to study, so the classical look was achieved by modifying existing dressmaking techniques. By raising the waistline of the gown, making it out of plain white cotton and leaving off all forms of decoration, an appropriately ‘antique’ look was created.

Wardrobe accounts and descriptions in fashion magazines indicate that these plain gowns were very popular, but few have survived. The utility of the undecorated fabric meant they were easily recycled into children’s clothes, servants' dress, cleaning rags and ultimately, paper.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cotton, linen, linen thread and tape; machine-woven and hand-sewn
Physical Description
A high waisted, white cotton round gown with elbow-length sleeves, bib-front opening. The front waist and neckline are gathered, the back bodice seamed with trained skirt gathered at centre back. The bodice is lined with linen; the bib front fastens with linen tape ties and a thread button on either side of neck edge. The sleeves are on a draw string at the elbow, with a shorter oversleeve, tucked at the lower edge and caught up with a thread button.
Dimensions
  • Overall, approx. length: 173.5cm
  • Cotton, selvage to selvage width: 50.25in
  • Waist circumference: 25in (Taken from register)
Style
Production typeUnique
Credit line
Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.
Object history
Part of the Talbot Hughes collection, purchased by Messrs. Harrods and donated to the V&A in 1913.
Summary
This plain white cotton gown embodies the ideals of neo-classicism in dress. Imitations of such clothing appeared in fancy dress and portraiture from the late 1760s, inspired by images of Greek and Roman dress published in the mid-18th century. A similar style of gown had been worn by little girls from the 1750s. The neo-classical style first emerges as fashionable dress in France, influenced by the political ideals of the French Revolution.



In construction, late 18th-century neo-classical gowns resemble earlier styles of women’s dress. There was no surviving Greek and Roman clothing to study, so the classical look was achieved by modifying existing dressmaking techniques. By raising the waistline of the gown, making it out of plain white cotton and leaving off all forms of decoration, an appropriately ‘antique’ look was created.



Wardrobe accounts and descriptions in fashion magazines indicate that these plain gowns were very popular, but few have survived. The utility of the undecorated fabric meant they were easily recycled into children’s clothes, servants' dress, cleaning rags and ultimately, paper.
Collection
Accession Number
T.820-1913

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record createdJuly 6, 2007
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