How can the Allemande be
distinguished from other dress styles?

 

Princess Maria Antonia
(click to enlarge)

When I first took note of this garment, I had the impression that it was a dress style like no other I had ever seen. I did know about French court dress, which was similar in many respects, but not the same. I have meanwhile learned that the dress I call Allemande comes in a variety of shapes that range from complete identity with French court dress via subtle differences to quite casual-looking garments.

Let's begin with a description of French court dress. In contrast to the "undress" styles of the period (most notably the robe à la française and English mantua), which are open-front, coat-like garments worn with a matching petticoat, both the bodice and the skirt of the robe de cour are closed across the front. Bodice and skirt are clearly distinct parts, although not necessarily separate. The waistline is often obscured by the long train (bas de robe) which is attached there and folded back over top of the panier. When the front of the waistline is visible, it sometimes sports tabs, sometimes it is smooth. The neckline is oval, with the shoulder straps riding low, and edged with a pleated band of lace. The sleeves are very short (in some cases virtually inexistent); the rest of the arm is covered by sleeves that have rows of lace running all the way down to the elbow. I have not yet been able to determine whether the lace sleeves are part of the chemise or separate articles, attached to short chemise sleeves or pulled over them. The lace is gathered and attached with a "head", i.e. not right at the edge but a little away from it, or along the middle of the strip. Some strips face up, some down.

Click button below to see what the database has in the way of French court dress*:

The dresses that I count under the heading of "Allemande" may differ from the above description in one or more of the features mentioned. The features that remain unchanged in any case are the closed front and the bodice/skirt distinction. In many but not all cases, the bas de robe is missing. Here are some examples of the features that differ from French court dress:

The sleeves: Long, wide sleeves are folded up at one point and fixed with a piece of jewelry at the crook of the arm. Chemise sleeves peek out underneath. There are similarities with the sleeves of late 17th century casual dress. Worn by the Electoress of Bavaria, early 18th century.
(Therese Kunigunde Sobieska, Schloß Nymphenburg, München)

Square neckline and sleeve cuffs. Both this dress and the one above have quare necklines, much like those of a manteau. In this case, the sleeves look exactly like those found on contemporary Françaises and Anglaises. The lady is a Prussian princess, 1734.
(Sophie von Brandenburg-Schwedt by Pesne, Schloß Charlottenburg, Berlin)

Engageantes and pearls on the waistline. Lace engageantes hang down from the elbow in addition to the lace sleeves. The pearls along the waistline are reminiscent of Elizabethan times. The lady is a countess, early 18th century.
(Schloß Fasanerie, Eichenzell)
(click to enlarge)

Slitted front. In some cases the bodice opens down the front to reveal either a kind of stomacher or the top of the stays. The width of the opening varies from a mere slit to a wide gap, the length from a few cm to almost down to the waistline. Sometimes the gap is held together by lacing, or at least pretends to be. The lady is a Prussian princess, 1734.
(Friederike Luise Markgräfin von Brandenburg-Ansbach by Pesne, Schloß Ansbach)

Wrapped front. Some of the wrapped-front styles appear quite loose-fitting and casual, as if it really was a wrapping gown. Only the clearly visible waistline betrays the fact that we are apparently dealing with a top fabric cleverly draped onto a stiff base. A Prussian lady-in-waiting, 1724.
(Miss von Malzan by Silvestre, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden)

From all of the above I deduce that the Allemande is closely related to French court dress, probably even a direct descendant. It has, however, developed variations that are clearly distinct from the gande parure, and incorporated features of other contemporary or earlier dress styles. The overall appearance is often much more casual and simple than that of the stiff, heavy, jewel-encrusted court robes.

Click the button below to see more examples of either Allemandes or strictly court dress from the database*:

 

Next chapter: Construction

*) These are preconfigured searches. A few instances of non-court dress or non-Allemandes always slip in. I'm sure you'll spot them for what they are - or aren't.

 

 

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