Ladies Court Dresses 17th – 20th Centuries

Ladies Court Dresses 17th – 20th Centuries

A few months back, I did a post on the Peacocks of the 18th and 19th Centuries showing the elaborate embroidery done on the men’s court suits. Am I still fascinated with the beautiful detailed stitching of these gorgeous clothes? Yes, I am, and this time I’m taking a look at the ladies and the magnificent court gowns of several countries, especially Russia and England with a few others thrown in. I’ve done enough needlework to understand how carefully these stitches had to be done and how tedious the work had to have been involving probably several hundred hours per garment. But they are beautiful, and one wonders how it would have been with a roomful of people dressed in these fabulous gowns. So, let’s take a much closer look at some of these lovely creations and sigh!

We’ll start first with Catherine Parr who was the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. Although I’m not sure that what she is wearing in this painting is an accurate depiction of a court dress, it is elaborate enough to show the importance of the queen dressing well. I wish data about the painting had more information concerning how detailed the gown was in regards to the stitching or appliques. It is beautiful nevertheless.

Next is Elizabeth I of England. Although this gown is a replica, it gives us an idea of how seriously court dress was taken. Beautiful detail that we can appreciate.

We now move to Russia in 1742. This is the coronation dress of Elizabeth I, the daughter of Peter I of Russia. This lovely gown consists of silver brocade, silk, gold lace, embroidery, and weaving.

In fact, I’ve found out of all the court dress, from several countries, that Russia overall had elaborately decorated garments, some that just take your breath away. Enjoy more to come in a moment.

Not to be outdone, France also came up with very detailed court dresses as well. This one is from 1750. Enjoy the meticulous stitching of the embroidery on this bodice. I wish I could see the back of it.

Talk about gorgeous! This silver embroidered silk damask mantua from ca. 1730-40 is also very swoon-worthy. Enjoy!

I love the color of this British court dress but cannot tell if there is embroidery or not. Probably there is on the front. Even looking at it from the side, it appears that it does have lace, embroidery, and even pearls or other precious gems attached, and that it is made for panniers which would place it somewhere in the 1700’s.

Catherine the Great of Russia had a lovely coronation gown. She ruled from the mid to the late 1700’s. One fact about her that I found interesting is that she rode horseback astride like a man. Evidently, her reputation was such that no one dared complain. 🙂

Queen Charlotte of England was not to be outdone. This painting represents her wearing a beautifully detailed court dress in 1773. With lace, beads or precious stones and what looks like a velvet train trimmed with fur, possibly ermine, she had no cause to repine.

Enjoy this 18th-century French court gown with its lace, lovely embroidery and perhaps even applique.

This is a French court train from 1809 that displays silk fabric and metal thread that is a gorgeous contrast against the red velvet.

Here is a stunning court dress and train from 1815 with elaborate gold embroidery. The train looks like it may have been made with dark green velvet material that contrasted beautifully with the gold.

I lament that this next one is a drawing rather than the real gown. It is an English court gown from 1833 and must have been swoon-worthy with all the beautiful lace and gold embroidery.

I would love to see this 1860’s French court train as the embroidery is exquisite.

This lovely creation is the court dress of Queen Margherita of Italy ca. 1878-9.

Now, for the Russian court dresses that I feel are the most elaborate and gorgeous of those found in any time period. These are from the late 1800’s to 1900+. Believe it or not, this next one is for a lady-in-waiting. The gowns had trains, the length of which was determined by the lady’s status. Needless to say, the Empress had the longest train. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!

There are so many more magnificent court dresses that can be found on, and I can’t do them justice today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some of the glorious fashions of bygone eras.

13 Responses to Ladies Court Dresses 17th – 20th Centuries

  1. Those are gorgeous! Thank you, Gianna 🙂 I would love to wear any of those, and have my picture taken, and then probably get right back out of them 🙂 I bet they’re beastly uncomfortable.

    • Probably the weight of some of the trains along with the corsets could make for discomfort. In winter, though, I imagine the heavier dresses would be helpful against the cold. Then again, they are so beautiful we might have ignored any discomfort. Thank you for your comments, Summer. 🙂

    • Yes, they are. And, yet, these are only a few of the magnificent garments that have survived down through the years. Apparently, the makers AND the owners were willing to take extraordinary care of them, and we are the appreciative recipients of their efforts.

    • Thank you, Sophie. Glad you enjoyed these beautiful garments. Yes, fashion does change, and I agree that the efforts in making and caring for some of the lovely gowns today, especially wedding gowns, still exists. And even if we don’t own them, we can appreciate their beauty. 🙂

  2. These pictures simply take my breath away. I have done needlework in my younger days and I cannot imagine doing this type of work back in the day. They had to work during the daylight hours. There is not enough light at nigh that could allow them to work that intricate a stitch. Wow! There could be no making a mistake… OMG!! What type of person did this work? Do we know? Did men do embroidery or was it women and girls only? I am stunned. What beauty and style. I bet they did feel like a queen. Thanks for sharing this delightful post. I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    • You’re welcome, J.W. I haven’t done research into who would do this type of work. Probably, mainly skilled women and girls, but now you’ve got my curiosity up about the men. Skilled tailors and guilds for them had been around for a long time. I’ve always thought of a tailor as being a man, but the definition refers to any person making garments for a particular individual. So, there may have been men who were skilled in embroidery as well. I have to thank you. You’ve got me thinking about how that could be incorporated into a future book. 🙂

  3. Just amazing! I especially liked the one you thought might have appliqué. I do wonder though if Catherine the Great managed to ride astride her horse in that dress!!!!
    Thank you for sharing these. I never really thought before that of course they didn’t have printed fabrics so any decoration was added by hand, and mostly done by candlelight? Amazing!
    Thanks again and Merry Christmas.

    • Yes, I loved Catherine Parr’s gown also. As to doing the embroidery, etc. by candlelight at night, it would have been extremely hard on the eyes. Candles on cloudy days might have been needed in addition to daylight. Any stitching of that sort would have required good lightning for accuracy. I’m wondering how many years a person could do that type of close work before their eyesight started failing.

      Paintings show that Catherine the Great eventually rode astride and wearing pants. Riding sidesaddle does not give a rider the control that riding astride does, and that may have been why she wouldn’t ride in that manner. After all, she grabbed the rulership of Russia in a coup when her husband was assassinated. I imagine she was a very controlling individual in everything she did. She was even dubbed the ‘enlightened despot.’ 🙂

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