Fashion of the week - English dress, ca 1793
This authentic dress from somewhere in the range of 1793 to 1797 says more about the fashion of the 18th century than the fashion that was just around the bend and would rein undisputed at the turn of the century and into the 19th century.
The dress is English, and it should not surprise anyone that it is not French. Despite the revolution of 1789 much of the fashion was still dictated from France and it was in France in 1793 that the fashion took a distinctive new turn with loose hanging fabrics and high waist.
Already in 1794 the fashion had reached London, but that is not the same as to say that everyone in England was wearing the new fashion - even if you had the money to buy new, stylish clothes which must have been the case with the woman that commissioned this dress.
The fabric is cotton, and a prime example of the fascination of the time with printed fabrics, now readily available for more common people and not just the absolute top of society.
This dress is a form of the very popular robe a l'Anglaise (lit. English dress) which had been very popular in fashion circles since the early 1780's. It is recognized by not having the big petticoats and hoops of earlier fashions making the skirts silhouette much slimmer. The skirt is open in the front allowing the petticoat to be seen as a part of the dress.
The dress seems to have quite an exposing décolletage, but that was because you were not supposed to wear the dress just like this but with a fichu or a tiny shawl rapped around that part of the body, most commonly white, which made the whole thing much more proper.