Silk taffeta dressing gown with Chinese hand embroidery, 1870s
By the middle of the 19th century, the decoration on boudoir attire (dressing gowns and slippers) had become more elaborate, allowing stylish "ladies undress" to be seen occasionally in semi-public indoor settings. The common term in that late 19th century was déshabillé.
With its train and bustle back, this exquisite wrapper is an exemplar of boudoir attire, retaining elements of street dress. A lady could be relaxed without her corset, yet still wear the fashionable bustle shape.
Made in China for the Western market, the stylish dressing gown is fashioned from regal purple silk taffeta and is totally lined with aqua silk. The brilliant color shows no fading.
The Chinese hand embroidery is magnificent beyond compare. To appreciate the exquisite artistry, zoom in on the pregnant petals. The subtle color transition from green-gray leaves to silver-gray petals has a poignant realism that nature would envy.
The front and skirt are covered with a profusion of floral bouquets and flying insects, executed in silk floss and couched metallic cord. Surface couching of metallic floss too abrasive to pass through the fabric is an ancient Chinese technique.
The wrapper closes in front with Chinese corded frog closures. A matching corded belt with end tassels ties at the waist. The gown is cut to accommodate a bustle. The skirt forms an elegant train in back.
The condition is almost excellent. In the fabric, I found two small splits that are knife clean—there is no shattering. The splits are stable and not obvious. I do not consider them a serious flaw. One split is on the bodice front, and the other is in back near the bustle.
The lining has been patched around the neckline. The dressing gown displays beautifully.
It measures: 38" bust, 16" from sleeve cap to sleeve cap, 20" sleeve length, and 56" from shoulder to front hem (longer in back).