Wednesday, January 4, 2012

History's Runway: The Miss M.B. Johnson Evening Gown, 1805-1810

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Fashion of the early Nineteenth Century provided a clean, flattering silhouette in the Neoclassical style.  This evening ensemble from 1805-1810 shows the graceful lines and colors which defined the era.  Here, we see a high-waisted gown with short sleeves in the Neoclassical fashion which imitated the forms of Greek and Roman dress evidenced in the ancient sculptures which were discovered and displayed at the time.

This gown, like others of the period is constructed of white muslin which was imported from India or, in the case of this example, made in Europe to imitate Indian materials.  It is an ideal example of the style with its high Empire waist, ruffled bodice and theatrical, cascading train.  Patterns were kept to a minimum.  Here, we see a pale design of acorns and vine tendrils down the front and around the hem of the gown.  

Such a gown was always accessorized with a scarf of knitted silk which was typically worn around the waist and supported by the lady’s elbows during the day, and used as a shawl in the evening.  In this case, the scarf has been printed in an Indian-inspired pattern similar to design on the gown, but in bolder, contrasting colors.

Made in France, the gown was given to the V&A by Miss M. B. Hudson.

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