The gown that is most associated with the eighteenth century Rococo style, or a decorative style of architecture, fashion, and interior design that featured purely ornamental designs and ornament with intricate floral patterns, popular between 1715 and 1775, is the robe à la française. Made of rich fabrics and loaded with frilly decoration, the robe à la française was worn by only the most wealthy women. It featured a tight-fitting bodice with a square neckline that revealed a great deal of a woman's upper breasts. The ties along the front of the bodice were hidden beneath a stomacher, or triangular panel, that was richly decorated with bows or ruffles. Tight sleeves covered the arm from the shoulders to the elbows, where many layers of lace and ruffles, called engageantes, circled the lower arm. The back of the dress featured the same floor-length pleats as the sack gown and the related robe à l'anglaise. The out-erskirt of the robe à la française was made of a fabric, often satin, that matched the bodice and was left open at the front to reveal a ruffled petticoat. The petticoat, like the stomacher, held many decorations: tiers of ruffles, bows, flowers, lace, and other ornamental touches. The skirts of the robe à la française widened over the course of the century with the support of panniers, or hoops used to give shape to a skirt. At the end of the century these elaborate dresses were discarded in favor of much simpler, straighter styles inspired by ancient Greece.
Made of rich fabrics and loaded with frilly decoration, the robe à la française was worn by only the wealthiest of women. Reproduced by permission of © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.
Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.
Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.
Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.
[See also Volume 3, Seventeenth Century: Stomacher; Volume 3, Eighteenth Century: Panniers; Volume 3, Eighteenth Century: Sack Gown]
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