Cotton print day dress, c.1830
Romanticism was the artistic and intellectual movement that developed in Europe in the late 18th century as a reaction against the prevailing Neoclassicism that dominated intellectual and artistic life. Romanticism rejected Classical precepts like order, harmony, balance, and rationality in general. Instead, Romanticism stressed imagination and self-expression against the restraints of "good form."
In the late Neoclassical period, an Empire-style dress typically had a straighter silhouette than the natural female form. The dress was high-waisted. The shape of the female form was de-emphasized. By 1825, we see the effect of Romanticism in clothing. The Romantics believed that women, like men, had the right to reveal and revel in their individuality. This was the most fundamental form of self-expression.
Nothing is a greater declaration of self than to celebrate the natural female form through clothes. In this fine example from the Romantic period, several features of the dress, not found in the earlier period, draw attention to the female form. The full skirt, the shoulder details, and the large gigot sleeves (which appeared only around 1830) work together to make the waist appear smaller, emphasizing the curves of the female figure.
I love the dainty cotton floral print dresses of the Romantic period. This one has a charming design featuring almost filigreed ferns in floral setting. What an irony that such a fine floral print was now affordable only because of the industrial revolution, against which Romanticism was a violent protest! The wearer of this lovely dress might have been strolling in a garden reading a Gothic novel or a poem by Byron.
The dress is completely hand sewn. The sewing machine was invented around this time but was not yet in widespread use. Skirt seams are sewn with a plain running stitch, while seams that need more support, e.g., at the armholes, are back stitched.
The dress is fashioned from a ribbon-weave cotton with alternating sheer voile and opaque stripes. The bodice, lined with ivory cotton, is boned at the sides. It closes in back with brass hooks and eyes. The bodice seams and edges are outlined with narrow self-cording.
The condition is very good to excellent. There are no alterations to the original style, and there is no structural damage. There are several stains on the skirt. They get lost in the folds. See the pictures below. The largest stain (3 1/2" by 1 1/4") is so pale that I had trouble finding it again.
It measures: 28" bust, 22" waist and 36 1/2" skirt length.