The naturalistic silk brocade is vibrant, stunning and beautiful. The points rentrés or shading technique helped to give a three dimensional effect by dovetailing shades of brocadingt threads. As with most 18th century gowns this one has been extensively altered. I feel it may have been altered in the 1780s perhaps for a young woman. The fact half the bodice was made up side down is puzzling, but if a large fichu was worn with it, this would probably not have shown. Brocades were expensive and much valued, so were re styled right up until the late 18th century when fashion changed to linens and cottons.
This dress belonged to the grandmother of the vendor. Her name was Agnes Jean Sutherland Sayles, (1904-1990) aged 86. Agnes was originally from Glasgow or Edinburgh. The family talk of the dress as 'the runaway brides dress' but who wore it and who they eloped with is not known.
woven in coral, puce, green silks on an ivory ground, the large scooop neck with long bodice, the below elbow sleeves with a pleated ruffle, the square neck edged with an inset band of brocade, the back with sewn down pleats tapering into the skirt, the skirt with cartridge pleating.
Pattern repeat 32 3/4 in; 83 cm.
Width of silk 20 in; 51.5 cm
Shoulder to hem: 55 in;1.4 m
Bust: 32 in; 80 cm
The right hand side of the bodice, as you look at it, has been cut upside down! The folds follow through to the joined segment at this side of the bodice. You will see the bodice is marked. Ask for photos if you cannot see. I think the whole bodice has been created from an earlier dress, hence the many pieces. Has it been a robe Francais ? then changed to Robe Anglaise. The lines on the bodice would have been the deep pleats at the top of the back of the dress ? We shall never know.
For similar brocade: Dress. Costume Society of America. Vol 33, 2006.p 60
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