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Ladies Costume

    Summer Dress of Printed Cotton Organdy
American, 1870s

In the late eighteenth century, mull – plain, printed, or embroidered – became one of the most fashionable fabrics for women’s gowns. The popularity of this exceptionally light and delicate cotton, especially for summer attire, persisted throughout the nineteenth century as the silhouette changed from a high-waist, columnar line around 1800 to more expansive forms in the second and third quarters of the century. Although at the beginning of the period, imported Indian muslin was considered the finest and dominated the European market, British cotton manufacturers soon began to produce this highly desirable sheer fabric that became increasingly available to middle-class consumers at home and abroad.

This two-piece day dress illustrates the frothy, rounded silhouette of the early 1870s; a boned corset and wired bustle worn underneath the garment give shape to the diaphanous white muslin printed with purple roses that has been stitched into swags and tiered ruffles.


Summer Dress of Printed Cotton Organdy, American, 1870s
Pink Silk Embroidered Evening Gown
English, ca. 1830
  Pink Silk Embroidered Evening Gown  


The influence of the Romantic Movement on women’s dress, inspired by fashions of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was at its height from the mid-1820s to the mid-1830s.

This evening dress of embroidered pink silk taffeta displays the characteristic silhouette of the period with its wide neckline, short, puffed sleeves, pleated bodice, and full skirt with exuberant applied decoration. The delicate foliate trail on the bodice and large scrolling sprays on the scalloped and saw-tooth edged flounce are worked in satin stitch with matching pink and black silk thread. Helping to hold out the lower skirt are padded rolls at the top of the flounce and at the hem, a typical construction feature at this time.


    Printed Cotton Jacket (caraco)
Dutch, late 18th century



Made of resist- and mordant-dyed Indian cotton with a delicate pattern of scrolling floral vines on a dark royal blue ground, this jacket reflects the longstanding vogue for chintz as an element of fashionable dress in the Netherlands. The caraco emerged as a new form of informal dress for women in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Fitted to the body in the bodice and flaring out over a full petticoat to the hips, the garment revealed the influence of men’s tailoring techniques and garment forms on women’s dressmakers.


Printed Cotton Jacket (caraco)
Wrap Coat of Printed Cotton by Alice Pollock
English, early 1970s
  Alice Pollock Wrap Coat for Quorum  

Alice Pollock’s boutique Quorum, opened in 1964, was one of a constellation of shops on the King’s Road in Chelsea that transformed London into a world fashion center. Beginning with Mary Quant’s Bazaar in 1955, the King’s Road emerged as the locus for young designers and innovative retailers, such as Michael Rainey (Hung on You) and Nigel Weymouth (Granny Takes a Trip). Pollock recruited fellow Royal College of Art alum Ossie Clark and his wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell, to design for her boutique in 1966, cementing its status as a cutting-edge shopping destination. This wrap coat was created as a prototype for Quorum and features oversized wing-shaped sleeves and a geometric design suggestive of Chinese court robes printed in orange around the outer hem. Inside, the coat is lined with a contrasting brown and white cotton printed with Turkish-inspired “cintimani” motifs. Both prints were designed by Frances Ronaldson, who worked for Pollock in the early 1970s and later married her ex-husband, Nick Pollock.



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