In the 1700s in Europe, ladies wore beautiful dresses that were called a robe a la Francaise or a sack-back robe. Elegantly designed, these garments were eye-catching and gained popularity very quickly. Unfortunately, today, we have only a few surviving examples of various sack-back gowns in museums and private collections around the world. But in 2017, a dress in a really great shape was found in private hands. We’d like to show you this attire with all the extraordinary details.
The robe a la Francaise or sack-back robe is a fashionable women’s outfit of the 18th century. At first, this gown was one of the most informal garments. But by the 1770s, it turned into the second most formal dress in Europe (after the court dress). The sack-back robe is characterized by a specific cut – its back is arranged in box pleats that form a kind of a train. At the front, the garment is open, showing a decorative stomacher and petticoat.
This is what's known as a “robe a la Francaise” or a “sack-back robe”. And it is dated the 1760s or 1770s. Some people might say that, obviously, it's incomplete because it’s got an open front. But it actually is an open robe – it has a specific cut.
Women would wear a very beautiful petticoat (underskirt) under this gown. And, of course, they would also wear wide hoops under the petticoat to achieve that wonderful silhouette.
Just imagine how this robe would have glistened and sparkled in the candlelight of the 1760s-1770s.
The material it's made from is really quite exquisite because it's painted silk rather than embroidered. There is some embroidery on it but the basic pattern we see is painted silk. This fabric would have been imported to Europe to be then turned into this beautiful sack-back dress.
The decorations on this robe are also rather wonderful. There are little sort of dangling tassels at the front.
And then down each side, the dress has got raised pockets almost, which have got a little piece of wool inside each of these panels to give it a 3-dimensional view.
The back of this gown has an interesting cut, which gives it the name “sack-back robe”. There are box pleats running from the shoulder blades all the way down to the bottom, which gives it a sort of train effect.
Also, the dress is embellished with the scalloped edges, particularly on the sleeves.
This robe a la Francaise is an extraordinary survivor. Painted fabrics are notoriously difficult to keep. This particular gown has been kept in a box for years, and that would perhaps explain why it hasn't just fallen to pieces. It is an incredibly rare survivor. A dress like this is of huge demand internationally by collectors and museums. Right now, this gown is worth something around 40,000 British pounds.