List this gown as "project I really want to start this winter but probably won't given the more pressing needs of new shifts and a new pair of stays." The robe a la francaise, or sacque-back gown, is probably one of the more evocative images of the eighteenth century--people see this style and see Marie Antionette and royal balls and start hearing chamber music. But this one is different--and that's why I love it. Most robes a la francaises have very wide pleats--from the back, you cannot see the wearer's waist. The pleats in most gowns like this originate at the shoulders very much like an undersized, structured cape. These pleats are, by comparison, practically in miniature, and I love that the waistline is still visible. Plus, the fullness is pushed toward the back of the gown, rather than to the sides, dating this piece to later in the eighteenth century. Images of the eighteenth century are usually synonymous with the wide hips achieved by paniers, but later in the era, the fullness began to reorient itself toward the back of the gown rather than the sides, particularly for daywear. Because I reenact the mid 1770s through 1780, this "false rump" style is the height of fashion--I'd look horribly outdated in wide paniers. We couldn't have that.
Now the only trouble is finding a gorgeous silk brocade like this...and winning the lottery to pay for it.