Tuesday, March 26, 2013

History's Runway: The Cooke Silk Gown, 1770-1779

Sack-Back Gown
England, 1770-1779
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This green and white satin sack-back gown demonstrates the fashion of 1770-1779 which relied on grounds of subtle colors as a means of showcasing expensive trimmings. Let’s look at the stripes of this gown. While rendered in muted colors, they’re actually quite complex in their creation with darker stripes of olive and brown giving depth to the wider, lighter pattern.

The bodice and sleeves are adorned with some exceptional floral passementerie. Rosettes have been added to the fly fringe (braid). These buds are made of coils of floss silk in shades of white, pink, scarlet, and maroon. The flowers are wired so that they can stand out from the gown. Meanwhile, the fringe is composed of knots of white and light green silk over a cover of deep emerald—creating an overall effect of a vine and stems from which the flowers have sprouted.

Further adornment comes in the form of embroidery of individual sprays of pansies, morning glories, auriculas, carnations, bluebells and roses. The embroidery has been created in chenille thread in order to echo the texture of the floral fly fringe. The stomacher (in this case the fabric front panel between the waist and bosom) is trimmed with a bow and a braid as well as hand-worked eyelets. While the gown was made in Britain between 1770 and 1779, the garment is marked with a tag which reads “Cooke 1786.” 

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