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.
|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|
- 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 Dress Diary:
- The fabric, and draping the underskirt
- Researching Lady Anne Darcy
- Draping the underskirt
- The reason behind the dress
- The first draping
- Draping the side pleats
- Lining the robe a la francaise
- The second draping
- The first wearing (at the Affair of the Diamond Necklace)
- Re-assessing and re-making the robe a la francaise
- Re-making the bodice
- The second wearing
- The third wearing
- Trimming the robe a la francaise
- Researching hairstyles to wear with the robe
- Constructing a second petticoat
- The finished second petticoat for the robe a la francaise
- The robe a la francaise at Pompeii
- The robe a la francaise at Pompeii II
- Queen of the garden photoshoot
- Baroque & Rococo out-takes I
- Baroque & Rococo out-takes II
- Featured in Radio NZ ‘Fashion in the Court of Louis XIV & Louis XV
Research and helpful links:
- Demode’s 1770s Robe a la Francaise dress diary
- La Couturier Parisienne
- Hart, Averil and North, Susan. 17th and 18th Century Fashion in Detail, London: V & A Publishing. 2009.
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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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!
Thank you so much for these brilliant posts – they’re so helpful for my writing research!
I’m currently trying to work out what kind of wedding dress my main character would have worn as a Disabled seamstress (she makes her own dresses but they’ve got to work with her wheelchair) in 1788, and these posts are amazing.