Portfolio: 1780s Lady Anne Darcy’s Wedding Dress (Robe a la Francaise)

The Idea and Inspiration:

A formal, early 1780s robe a la francaise, as might have been worn as a wedding dress by Lady Anne Darcy, the mother of Mr Darcy (of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)

By the 1780s robe a la francaises were becoming less common, but were still seen for more formal and conservative occasions.  As a formal gown, this dress harkens back to the 1760s and 70s in its basic construction, but the trimmings are current to the early 1780s.

I looked at a number of different gowns and paintings from the 1760s to the 1780s for inspiration for the dress.

The colour, based on paintings by Boucher, West, and Gainsborough, was clearly popular throughout the later half of the 18th century, and contemporaneous writing indicates that it was a particularly popular choice for wedding gowns for the wealthy upper class.

The ‘poofed’ trimmings were based on gowns in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The round ‘poofs’ were very common on 1780s gowns, and are quite different from the sharp pleating on early robe a la francaises.  Along with the closed centre front (rather than a stomacher) of the dress, they are the most obvious indication of the 1780s date of the gown.

Inspiration Gallery

Robe a la Francaise, 1780s V&A Gainsborough, Anne Ford, 1760 Benjamin West, Queen Charlotte, 1779
Trinquesse, The Music Party, 1774 Robe a la Francaise, French, ca 1785 Labille-Guiard, Self Portrait, 1775
Reynolds, Lady Elizabeth Keppel, 1761 Fragonard, The Love Letter, ca 1770 1770s Robe, Janet Arnold: Patterns

Fabric and Materials:

  • Robe – silver metallic cotton, lined in shell pink recycled kimono silk and cream cotton sateen.  Heavy twill bodice lining, with plastic whalebone (cable tie) boning.  Metal hooks to fasten at centre front
  • First underskirt – quilt effect synthetic brocade
  • Second underskirt – silver metallic cotton front, pink cotton broadcloth back, muslin/calico lining

The Undergarments:

The Dress Diary:

Research and helpful links:

6 Comments

  1. Sierra says

    I adore this dress! I do not sew but I perform musically on piano. I love to play period music in period costume. I showed a dressmaker these pictures and had her make me one of silk taffeta. It’s pleasure to wear.

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  4. Gillian says

    Hi,

    I am currently working on my own robe a la Francaise, and I remembered seeing your beautiful silver one a while ago. I’m trying to find the dress diary, but every time I click a link it just takes me to the newest entries on your blog. I’ve tried a few different search terms, and tags, but alas no luck so far! Do you know if those pages are still available? OR did they get retired when you changed layouts a few years ago?

    • They got retired just a month ago, when photobucket stopped doing 3rd party hosting. I’m trying to get them back up, but it’s taking a while as there are over 500 blog posts to go through, re-add pictures to, and get back up!

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