Northern Threads: Silhouetts in Sequence, ca.1780-1889

Dress worn at the English court, ca. 1775

Dress worn at the English court, ca. 1775
Item 105294   info
Maine Historical Society

Known as a robe á la francaise, this gown illustrates a style of dress worn at mid-18th century English royal court and reflects a French influence on period fashions. The silk brocade skirt opens over a matching underskirt. Typically, the open bodice front was filled by a triangular panel called a stomacher, which in this case, did not survive. At the back, pleats fall straight from shoulder to hem.

It’s unlikely such a dress was worn in Maine, especially by this time, when the style was typically only worn at court. This dress is associated with Mary Hammond Murdock (d. 1770) of Philadelphia, whose descendants later lived in Maine. Family lore stated Murdock wore the dress at George II’s court, who reigned from 1727-1760. The brocade fabric dates from about 1750 to 1765, but the dress style is closer to 1775, around the start of the American Revolution and during the reign of George III. Mary Murdock’s death in 1770 further complicates the story. Family stories also note Murdock’s unnamed sister was a bridesmaid at George III’s wedding. Perhaps the dress stems from that relationship.

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