Embroidered white cotton dress, early 1820s
This dainty dress anticipates the change from the Neoclassical to the Romantic period. The waist is still high as in the Empire style, but the skirt is flared and fuller. The Empire style gown began as a chemise shift gathered under the breasts and at the neck. By 1800 it had a décolleté low square neckline; the small neat puff sleeves barely capped the shoulder.
The bodice and sleeves have alternating rows of sheer ruched cotton mull and hand-embroidered eyelet. The seams are all outlined with corded piping. The bodice has a separate lining in the back only. The dress closes in back with hooks.
Bands of eyelet alternating with rows of trapunto cording form a wide hem border that is both decorative and functional. The stiff trapunto cording is like a crinoline holding the flared shape of the skirt. (Trapunto means to embroider.) The design is outlined with two or more rows of running stitches and then padded from the underside for a raised effect.
The endearing simplicity of the hand sewn dress commands our admiration because of the skillful adaptation of the Neoclassical style. Due to its association with classical antiquity, the white gown embodied the Neoclassical ideal. The simple white cotton dress symbolized a romanticized pastoral life, celebrated by classical writers as well as by their Neoclassical imitators.
The condition is very good to excellent. There are several small mends in the bodice; a nick in the hem edge; and a few tiny holes in the skirt. These minor flaws are reflected in the price.
It measures: 32" bust, 25" high waist, 9" from the shoulder to the high waist, and 54" from the shoulder to the hem.