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Wedding dress, Houghton & Dalton, London, 1902. Silk, two pieces. Victoria & Albert Museum

Wedding dress, Houghton & Dalton, London, 1902. Silk, two pieces. Victoria & Albert Museum

1760-1780, France, Robe à la Française, Silk plain weave with supplementary warp patterning; silk woven-braid trim, LACMA

1760-1780, France, Robe à la Française, Silk plain weave with supplementary warp patterning; silk woven-braid trim, LACMA

Medium: Multicolored silk floral brocade Date: c.1735 Country: France or Italy A fashionable robe à la française might be made from yards of expensive silk brocade draped over wide hoops, trimmed with handmade lace, and elaborately accessorized. Often dismissed as wasteful, aristocratic luxury supported a host of artisans. According to the great French writer Baron de Montesquieu, there was “an absolute necessity for luxury. Were the rich not so lavish, the poor would starve.”

Medium: Multicolored silk floral brocade Date: c.1735 Country: France or Italy A fashionable robe à la française might be made from yards of expensive silk brocade draped over wide hoops, trimmed with handmade lace, and elaborately accessorized. Often dismissed as wasteful, aristocratic luxury supported a host of artisans. According to the great French writer Baron de Montesquieu, there was “an absolute necessity for luxury. Were the rich not so lavish, the poor would starve.”

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