Form and Fashion

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Dress
1823-1825, 19th century
Fibre: silk (taffeta, satin), cotton (lining); Sewn (hand)
M20555.1-2
© McCord Museum
Description
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Description

The skirt still flares and the bodice remains somewhat shallow, but now there is a larger puffed sleeve. Tape ties control the wide square neckline and back closure. A partly gored skirt is gathered to the bodice on all sides. On the bodice, appliquéd satin bands meet at a central point, creating an illusion of width echoed by the puffed sleeve. Similar satin bands are found at the wrist. Satin languettes, suggesting a third dimension, embellish the puffed sleeve and form a deep border along the skirt. The hemline is held out by a rouleau in the same satin. All the trimming, except the rouleau, is finished with self-piping. The taffeta belt fastens at the back, where it is finished with a satin rosette and streamers. By 1823 the skirt was sometimes gathered to the waist as seen here, a trend which continued in the following years. About 1820 to 1825, the waistline started to descend (the lower position often being emphasized by the low placement of a belt) to find its natural position in the following three years. The McCord gown with its still relatively high waistline may be an example of a retrograde stylistic detail harking back to a previous trend, rather than adopting a more up-to-date one. The sleeve slowly began to enlarge in the early twenties, generally accelerating in growth from 1825 on. Some similarities exist between the McCord example and those depicted in the fashion plates from 1824-1825. Montrealers were known to enjoy dancing, for which a dress of this type would have been worn. To enable them to perfect this art, Madame Harries from Paris was operating a Dancing Academy in the city in 1824. Through the Canadian Courant and Montreal Advertiser of May 8, 1824, she announced the teaching of "a number of the most fashionable Quadrilles, which are now practiced in Paris, and which have never been introduced in this city". (Excerpt from: BEAUDOIN-ROSS, Jacqueline. Form and Fashion : Nineteenth-Century Montreal Dress, McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1992, p. 20.)

Keys to History

Here the skirt is still flared and the bodice remains somewhat shallow as it was the case five years before. The sleeves, however, have grown larger.

Tape ties control the wide square neckline and back closure. A partly gored skirt is gathered to the bodice on all sides. On the bodice, appliquéd satin bands converge at the centre, creating an illusion of width echoed by the puffed sleeves. Similar satin bands are found at the wrist. Satin languettes (tongue-shaped appliqués) create a three-dimensional effect on the puffed sleeves and form a deep border along the skirt. The hemline is reinforced with a padded rouleau of the same satin. All of the decoration, except for the rouleau, is self-piped. The taffeta belt fastens at the back, where it is finished with a satin rosette and streamers.

Waistlines inched steadily lower between 1820 and 1825 (this was often emphasized by a belt fixed at hip level) before returning to the natural position over the following three years. The relatively high waist of [object=M2003X.6.4.453]this gown[/object] would appear to be a stylistic throwback or nostalgic detail, rather than a modern style. Sleeves expanded slowly in the early 1820s and grew increasingly large as of 1825.

  • What

    This gown is made of old rose silk taffeta and beige silk satin.

  • Where

    To perfect their dance steps, Montreal ladies took lessons with Madame Harries from Paris, who operated a local dancing academy. In the Canadian Courant and Montreal Advertiser of May 8, 1824, she announced the teaching of "a number of the most fashionable Quadrilles, which are now practiced in Paris, and which have never been introduced in this city."

  • When

    Beginning in 1823, skirts were often gathered at the waist, as in this case. This fashion held sway for several years.

  • Who

    Montreal ladies were known to enjoy dancing, for which they wore gowns of this sort.