Monday, October 24, 2011

18th Century Precious Little's Girls Gown

From the seller:

If you have never bought 18th Century items before, this little gown is probably not for you. It is very, very fragile.

I adore it, of course!

Now, the citrine yellow silk is just a pure 18th Century give away to any Georgian collector. This colour has never been reproduced exactly to my knowledge!

It is very difficult to research the 18th Century baby gown, apart from newborn babies. So few remain. But I think this gown might be the first half of the century, because it is described so well in Cunnington & Buck*

' The first frocks changed very little during the first half of the Century. They had a round or square neck revealing the frilled edge of the shirt; the sleeves ended at the elbow, usually with a turn back cuff, with the frill of the shirt sleeve showing beneath. The bodice was close fitting, and the full skirt was seamed onto it at the waist......a back opening was was probably the most general and sashes were worn.'

Well, here you are. This dear little piece is open to the back, with a deeply curved front bodice in the shape of a stomacher. The skirt is heavily pleated onto the curve of the bodice waist.

The elbow length sleeves are seamed as if to be turn back, but I suspect they were once overlaid with lace.

The cut of the frock is Georgian in every respect!

Of course, there is a slit for the pocket, which would have been hidden under the gown. Only one slit, I have the most wonderful little tale of a baby who would not go to bed without his [single] pocket, which I will tell on my other Georgian baby gown listed seperately.


Very fragile, with repairs done far later, but all by hand and easy to remove for renovation if you wish.

Overall gentle discolouration and some splits still left.

Original silk lining, very deep to the skirt, also with some splitting but rather good for age.

Absolutely no renovation that would offend the true Georgian collector, no trace of machine stitching or similar horrors! Evidence of removed tucks to the skirt.

Evidence that the frock was made from an even earlier piece! Probably mummy's silk gown!

Now, it is lovely to see the remains of one waist tie. However, the neck ties are gone, leaving a hole. I am happy to send an antique ribbon which is almost identical, so that you can sew this to make ties at the neck.

Don't forget that she needs a big and splendid waist sash [although I couldn't possibly cover that curved waistline!]

Please don't forget that this garment is extremely fragile and very far from perfect. I don't mind what it sells for but you MUST adore it!

Refunds happily given if returned in the same condition as sent.

The chest of my baby mannequin is approx 23".


'Childrens Costume in England 1300-1900' Phillis Cunnington & Anne Buck. Adam & Charles Black. 1965

'The Art of Dress' Jane Ashelford. The National Trust. 1996.

From Me:

There are so many reason why I love this gown. First, it's 18th Century. Second, it's such a bright vibrant color. Third, it's pieced! So many of us are told in the historical costuming world that "piecing is period" but it's rare to find a surviving example where the piecing is so pronounced. The shoulders, the sleeves -every part of the bodice seams to be from left overs from Mom's gown. It's wonderful!

I'm putting this in the 1780's for now. The lack of a point or curved down at the waist would suggest a more transitional style. There are a few children's gowns from the 1780's in museums that have the same overall cut -elbow sleeves and no point/rounding at the front of the waistline.

Edit: I wanted to clarify the 1780's date after reading elsewhere that some believe this is from the early part of the 18th Century.

It's not.

The painting above is from 1718. Yes, the dresses are yellow and for children but that's where the similarity ends. Notice how round the neckline is. Also, notice the sleeves. The sleeves tend to be a good indication of what decade you are working with, no matter the era. In the painting, the sleeves are gathered (probably pleated) at the top (and probably the back) of the sleeve. They have wide, turned up cuffs. This extant dress has narrow, fitted, and relatively long sleeves for the 18th century.

This extant one at the Met (btw, clicking on the photos should take you to more info on each of the objects) is from the first half of the 18th Century. Again, a cuff at the end of this short sleeve with gathers at the back of the dress. The yellow extant one has fitted sleeve sans gathers. Also, this red one is flat in the front without a waist seam - very similar to the adult dresses of the time.

This dress from the Philly Art Museum is from the 1780's. The sleeves are cut the same as the yellow dress. The waistline (straight across, no curve) is the same as the yellow dress. Yes, this one may be out of a different material, but the cut of gowns didn't really change much due to a material in the 18th century.

This extant dress is dated between 1780-1830. If you look at the neckline, you'll notice it's pieced very similarly to the yellow dress. The sleeves are very similar as well.

Although this one is from a decade earlier than the yellow dress (1770's), and therefore has a pointed waist, the neckline and the cut of the sleeves are similar to the 1780's.

I hope that clears it up. I swear, I do a ton of research for most of these items before I post them and add my sometimes crazy comments. If you'd like more information on children's gowns of the 18th Century, feel free to ask.

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