Saturday, March 12, 2011

Colonial Costume

Since we’re speaking of colonial costume, I’m going to share several gowns I've run across in my research that I especially like for their detail and beauty. Alas, the most beautiful one I've found I made the mistake of embedding in a Word document with the accompanying text, and if the images can be extracted, I don't know how to do it. I found it a few years ago on ebay, where it was up for auction. It’s truly is museum quality, but all I can share here is the description that was given. The caption says: Spitalfields Pannier Gown & Petticoat, c. 1760-75.

“The gown is fashioned from English Spitalfields cream brocade silk damask. The brocade is amazingly vibrant and rich in colour, depicting the awakening of spring, through blossoming flowers, young buds, and swags- completely throughout the gown's fabric, in shades of purples, violets, magenta, rose, cinnamon, cornflower, champagne, navy and deep pinks! The sides of the gown are full to allow for a pannier undergarment, and with an open front to reveal, where would have been, a highly decorated petticoat. The petticoat included, would have been worn as an undergarment to the skirt. It is a beautiful piece to display the gown over, and was found with the gown, as a set.

“The front of the bodice would have been complete with an elaborate stomacher, and lace belle sleeves, according to whether or not the wearer desired. The sleeves have a beautiful belle shape, and with a feminine double flounce. All of the bodice and sleeves are trimmed with cream silk, hand-knotted fringe detailing. Both pieces are fully hand sewn, and are a testament to the immense level of labor put into such remarkable garments like these of the period, which only the higher levels of women in society could even consider affording. The gown is unlined, and the petticoat is lined in cream linen. The quilting to the botton of the petticoat depicts signs of spring, like its gown, with leaves, and young buds. See page 59 of Fashion by Taschen, for a very similar quilted piece of the same era.”

It really is gorgeous, and luckily I was able to find a similar one on the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website, along with another that’s equally lovely, which I’ll post tomorrow. A front view is not given, unfortunately, only the back and side. Although the pattern of this gown is not as elaborate and vibrant as that of the Spitalfields gown, the colors are similar, and it’ll give you the general idea. It dates to around 1750. Click on the images for a larger view.

Detail views.

Click here to go to a photo album on Picasa that shows a number of lovely gowns dating from 1770 to 1790. The album owner appears to be Jasmine Brackett, and the header states: costume making at college, and web work at Victoria and Albert Museum; Student at Kensington and Chelsea College, London.

In the next couple of posts I’ll share images of the other gown I found on the website of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and also another very lovely gown I found a few years ago. Hmm . . . then maybe I ought to delve into men’s clothing.


  1. I'll have to take a look at the other gowns. Thank you for sharing. The description is marvelous!

  2. I just wish I could extract the images of the Spitalfields gown and share them. It is the most gorgous gown I've ever seen from that period. I'm sure by now it's safely in a museum somewhere and they probably paid a pretty penney for it.