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

Dress

1805-1810 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This evening ensemble characterises Neo-classical dress of the early 19th century. The high-waisted style with short sleeves imitated the forms of Greek and Roman dress seen in surviving sculpture. The white muslin fabrics used for these gowns were either imported from India or, in the case of this example, made in Europe to imitate Indian materials. A design of acorns and vine tendrils has been worked in down the front and around the hem of the gown. A scarf of knitted silk has been printed in a pattern similar to those of the popular Indian cashmere shawls.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Cotton muslin, embroidered with white cotton, lined with linen, hand-sewn
Physical description
Evening dress of white muslin, embroidered all over in white cotton. The embroidery is worked in a pattern of French knots, with the collars, skirt border, and centre stripe embroidered in chain stitch. The design links vine tendrils and acorns. The dress has a low square neck adjusted with a draw-cord, and 'stomacher' front closing over inner lining flaps. The waist is high and the skirt cut straight and gathered at the centre of the back, fastening with a tape tie. It extends into a long oval train. The sleeves are short and have a 'vandyke' trimming.

Dimensions
  • Below bust to front hem length: 1116cm
  • Centre back raised waist seam to hem of train length: 226cm
  • Raised waist seam, under bust, front width: 35cm (Note: Originally this would have been adjustable with a drawstring)
  • Raised waist seam, back panel width: 34cm (Note: Originally this would have been adjustable with a drawstring)
Style
Credit line
Given by Miss M. B. Hudson
Object history
Given to the V&A in 1913 by Miss M.B. Hudson, Lancaster Gate, London (RP 1913/3077M). On entry to the Museum it was noted that it had been 'slightly repaired'.



Between 1962 and 1979, this dress was displayed in the V&A's old costume court. It was also loaned to the British Council Exhibition of Portraits which travelled to Romania and Hungary in 1972-73 (RPs 72/882A). It was exhibited in 1975-76 in an exhibition at the British Library celebrating the bicentenary of Jane Austen (RPs 75/2216).

Historical context
White muslin, Classical in effect, was fashionable from the 1790s to about 1810. Dresses of similar shape to this with a stripe down the centre-front were in use from about 1806, when an example was illustrated in the Lady's Monthly Museum, February 1806, to 1809, the 'pocket book' plate Fashionable Dress of the Year 1809. The oak leaf had classical connotations but, as one of Napoleon's devices, became even more popular after his coronation in 1804.

Production
The fineness of the muslin could suggest an Indian origin for the fabric.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This evening ensemble characterises Neo-classical dress of the early 19th century. The high-waisted style with short sleeves imitated the forms of Greek and Roman dress seen in surviving sculpture. The white muslin fabrics used for these gowns were either imported from India or, in the case of this example, made in Europe to imitate Indian materials. A design of acorns and vine tendrils has been worked in down the front and around the hem of the gown. A scarf of knitted silk has been printed in a pattern similar to those of the popular Indian cashmere shawls.
Bibliographic reference
Rothstein, Natalie. Four Hundred Years of Fashion. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984. ISBN: 1851771166.
Collection
Accession number
T.124-1913

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Record createdFebruary 12, 2003
Record URL
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