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Drawing inspiration from the "Orientalism" trend of the late 18th Century, this gown is of a rather composite style known at the "Mode a la turque" (Fashion of the Turks). During this period, many women were inspired by strengthened trade and new discoveries of the Far East and Asia, and often re-cut existing gowns to move with the currents of European fashion. As seen in this piece, a traditional English or Italian gown bodice (with a compere or stomacher closure) would be re-cut into the triangular "zone front" shape, mimicking the exotic cuts of the Ottoman court; all the while still remaining patriotic with profusions of European ruffles, bows and, of course, silhouette-altering undergarments. The light fabrics, bold striped motifs, short oversleeves and decorative cutaway bodices with button closures were all features adopted from the courts of Constantinople, and were popular as casual demitoilettes (afternoon dresses) in Europe.
The colour palette of this gown was inspired in part by another zone-front gown created by New York based costume designer Lauren Rossi, but the cut and style vary from this stimulus. The ensemble is made from a tight-woven broadcloth that behaves very similarly to taffeta; it is light, crisp and does not fray. Therefore, pinked ruffles are used liberally to add depth and the customary "froth" of the Rococo period.
It features an en fourreau Turkish gown over a matching ruffled petticoat. The short sleeves display the plain cotton sleeves of the chemise below, which is made more elaborate with the addition of cotton-silk engageantes (removable cuffs). The matching shoes are a plain black court shoe, lined with matching cotton and trimmed with cotton and silk, featuring a cockade and button with a braided motif. The lilac dupion sash is complemented by bows at either elbow, and by a small portrait cameo worn on the right breast.
The skirt has a scalloped hem, and may be worn straight or pulled via tapes into a Polonaise pouffe, displaying a matching false underskirt.
Striped cotton day dress c.1789
Spring-green cotton broadcloth gown, silk dupion accents.
Cotton-silk engageantes, matching shoes - January 2018