Monday, November 21, 2011

History’s Runway: The Craster “Great Bird” Gown, 1755

The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’m always amazed when articles of clothing survive for many years, but, to survive for over two-hundred-fifty years in such fine condition is truly remarkable. This formal gown dates to the late 1750s and demonstrates the ornate design of women’s dress at the height of the Rococo period.

The gown is constructed of silk which is brocaded in a pattern of flowers with colored and silver thread. The gown and petticoat take a dramatic silhouette like the plumes of a great bird-- trimmed with silver bobbin lace, and flowers made of ruched ribbons and beads, silk tassels and theatrical feathers.

Clearly, such an elaborate ensemble would have been the stuff of evening dress, dancing, or attending the opera or theatre. This peacock-like dress is said to have been worn by one Mrs. Craster who had, previously acted as a maid of honor to Queen Caroline (1683–1737), consort of George II.

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