French, Silk ribbed weave (cannele) with discontinuous supplementary patterning wefts; 150.5 cm (59 5/16 inches) (center back length), Museum purchase with funds from the Museum Associates in honor of Eleanor Fayerweather 82.287.1
The most popular style of women’s eighteenth-century dress was known as the robe á la française (or sack back gown). Assembled from three basic pieces, the largest component was an overdress opening down the front with a loose back held in double box pleats at the neck. The bodice front was joined by a stomacher, a triangular piece of fabric usually elaborately decorated. Beneath the overdress was a petticoat exposed by the open-fronted skirt. This basic form remained the same throughout the century, although the fabric, trim, and proportions of the gown changed from year to year. The RISD gown’s relatively narrow silhouette, meandering ribbon fabric pattern, and delicate trim date it to the 1760s.