María Cristina de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, Reina de España, Detail.
by Vicente López y Portaña, 1830
'Étude de Volubilis' par G. Lebart. Printed by Berlin & Cie, Imp. Lecoq & Mathorel, Paris
Source -‘Album de la Décoration’
Image and text courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery
The dress has been made with slits at the side, forming a drop apron at the front to allow for an expanding waistline. This would suggest that it was worn as a maternity dress or nursing garment. High-waisted ‘Empire’ style dresses were the fashion of the early 19th century, however from around 1825 dresses became narrower in the waist and heavily bodiced. The front-opening bodice is unusual for this period, and allows ease of movement for nursing. This dress features a cross-over, front-opening bodice, which was unusual for this period. However this high-waisted style would have been most comfortable for maternity wear, allowing ease of movement for nursing.
The fabric is a printed wool of blue and cream stripes, with stylised flora design in browns and greens. The design and construction indicates that it was a maternity or nursing costume. Such costumes, particularly one so fashionable and of such an early date, are very rare survivors, as are costumes made of printed wool, making this costume an extremely interesting addition to the Museum’s collection of colonial dress. (Source: Powerhouse Museum)
The robe volante, or flowing robe, featured by Watteau at the center of his painting L’Enseigne de Gersaint of 1721, gave freedom and movement to the new fashion. In fact, it was not the style of gown that was new, but the use to which it was put. Worn over the boned bodice and petticoat, it had previously been worn only informally, in the privacy of the boudoir or bedroom, although its unwaisted shape sometimes made it the choice of pregnant women to disguise their condition (this, at any rate, was how it was worn by Madame de Montespan, whose little ruse fooled nobody: as soon as she appeared in the gown, the whole court realised immediately the nature of the happy event in prospect for the king’s favorite mistress).
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