Robe à la française
Medium: Violet and pink iridescent silk brocade
Credit: Museum purchase
Paris was the undisputed capital of women's fashion from the 17th century until well into the 20th. Among 18th-century dress styles, the most typically French was the sack dress, also known as the robe à la française, which usually took the form of an open robe, with a joined bodice and skirt that opened in front to reveal an underskirt or petticoat. Fashion in the 18th century was highly decorative and luxurious for both men and women. Fashionable display was controversial, however, and moralists were scandalized by Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1724), which argued that private vices might be public virtues. Taking an economic approach, Mandeville pointed out that lavish spending on dress "trickled down" to employ numerous skilled artisans, such as tailors and embroiderers.
Object Number: P84.8.1