Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses; Gowns; Robes à l’anglaise
c. 1770. Robe à l’anglaise in two pieces, made of imported block-printed cotton with a fitted bodice closed in front, elbow-length sleeves, and open-fronted skirt cut to fit over small panniers, and with a separate matching underskirt panel.
The bodice is tailored to closely fit the conical silhouette of a torso shaped by a foundation garment. The bodice has three main pieces, two panels in front and one in back, and added-on shoulder straps, back neck piece, and sleeves. The front has one panel per side, cut straight with no bust shaping, opening at center and would have been pinned shut when worn. Its hem edge dips below the waist at center in a squared-off point, rising to the natural waist at the sides. The front panels wrap around the body and are sewn to the back panel with a curved seam from the back of the shoulder to the waist. The back panel is cut in a T shape, with its middle running the full length of the dress from neckline to skirt hem while the sides are cut to fit the waistline, dipping toward the center back. The back of the bodice has a sewn vertical tuck at center from neck to waist, flanked on either side by two pleats which are stitched down, all of which creates a snug fit in the torso. The pleats are widest at the neckline and narrow toward the waist, where they release their excess fabric into the skirt. A rectangle of fabric is added to the top of the back panel to enclose the pleating and create a finished neckline. Rectangular 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide shoulder straps are sewn to the front at the armscye, slanting out over the shoulders from a wide and gently rounded front neckline before joining the back panel and its neck piece at a tighter angle to make a narrower, higher, and more squared-off line in back. The sleeves have a single seam and are sewn to the shoulder straps and the bodice front panel. They come to the elbow, where they dip lower in back than in front.
The floor-length skirt is knife-pleated to the bodice from about the middle of the front panels around to the back, with pleats pointing toward the back on each side. The skirt is made of two panels using the full width of the fabric (94 cm / 37 in.) with one partial width panel (38.1 cm / 15 in.) at center back cut as one with the bodice back, distributed evenly around the waist. The separate underskirt panel is made of two partial widths of the fabric (52.4 cm / 20.625 in. and 54.3 cm / 21.375 in.), sewn together at center front. It is ungathered except for large pleats at the side, suggesting small panniers were worn with it. There is evidence of thread remnants in the edges of both the panel and the skirt of the gown, and while the hem of the panel is finished, its waist is unpicked. It is possible it was once sewn to the gown; some robes à l’anglaise were constructed to appear to have a separate underskirt but were in fact one continuous garment.
The linen bodice lining is simplified, with no tuck or pleats in the back. The sleeves are fully lined, but the skirt is not, having only a 2.54 cm / 1 in. linen tape as a facing for the hem. Hand-sewn.
The white cotton fabric is block-printed with black, gray, lavender, red, yellow, and blue inks to make dark orange vines, red and dark purple flowers, green leaves, and red and blue berries, over a lavender moire effect background. Imported. Registration marks from the printing process are visible as small black dots.
Neckline: 94 cm / 37 in.
Bust: 83.8 cm / 33 in.
Waist: 71.1 cm / 28 in.
Sleeve length: 33.7 cm / 13.25 in.
Hem (dress): 223.5 cm / 88 in.
Hem (separate panel): 104.1 cm / 41 in.
Length (skirt front): 94 cm / 37 in.
Length (skirt back): 104.8 cm / 41.25 in.
Length (separate panel): 91.4 cm / 36 in.
Gift of the Coe family. Descended through the family, owned and worn by Temperance Pickering Knight (1732-1821) of Dover Point, New Hampshire.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
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Dresses, Gowns, Robes à l’anglaise, c. 1770, Dover, New Hampshire, United States, Two-piece dresses, Block-printed cotton, Fitted bodice, Linen lining, Wide neckline, Square neckline, Shoulder straps, Elbow-length sleeves, Open-fronted skirt, Panniers, Underskirt panel, Knife pleats, Vines, Flowers, Leaves, Berries, Black (color), Gray (color), Lavender (color), Red (color), Yellow (color), Blue (color), Moire effect, Registration marks, Imported, Hand-sewn, Temperance Pickering Knight, Janet Coe Stearns, Margaret Coe Ninde, Sarah T. Coe, Anne Coe Curry, Coe family, Coe (donor)