4/20/2008

Fashion of the week - Court-dress, c. 1795

This English print from the time 1794-1795, shows the look of the dresses supposed to be worn when visiting the court, like when you were attending parties held by the king, George III and those around him.

The dress might look odd to us, but it has to do with the fact that is a cross-over between to very different types of fashion - the one from before the French Revolution of 1789 and the one after.

This is before the full regency fashion has struck, the fashion we associate with the turn to the 19th century, with Jane Austen and Lord Byron. It is instead a cross-over with the fashion of the time of the Revolution, where the financial strains had made it a must to have a rather more restrained wardrobe than earlier during the 18th century. The thing is that the fashion that is most frequently connected with this time, the high waisted, thing dresses inspired by the antique sculptures did not come into fashion until 1793 and this was just a short while after and since the court-dress was a very formal dress that was not changed very easily it remained a bit out of date. The fashion in the years 1789-1793 looked very much like it had done just before the revolution - Paris had been the capital of fashion, and there was no time and no money now to spend on developing a new fashion at that time.

That means that the upper part of this dress will look very much like a dress did in around 1790. The skirt is, on the other hand, a completely different matter. The court dress really did not look like the fashion in the streets at the time, and it was mostly due to the big skirt. To see skirts like that in the ordinary fashion you have to turn to the 1750's and 60's when really fancy dresses could have skirts like that. And for some reason it stuck and got formalized so that all court dresses were supposed to look like that, long after it had left the ordinary fashion.

This odd part of English fashion history can be seen later than this, but it looked even more odd when the regency-fashion had struck big time and this gigantic skirt began right under the bust of the woman.

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