Cotton Netted Overdress
Style: Worn over an opaque dress, this overdress represents a fad depicted in English fashion plates dating between about 1798 and 1802. Since they had to be hand-netted—a very time-consuming process—hardly anyone actually made these. Instead, like many extreme fashions, some women incorporated net in their garments in smaller amounts. Several Gilbert Stuart portraits of about 1801-2 depict women’s sleeves very much like the ones on this dress.
Fabric: Using the same technique as in fishermen’s nets, netting involves manipulating a continuous, knotted strand of thread with a flat stick and a long blunt needle. Like knitting or crocheting, it goes quickly once the stitch is learned; but to make a whole skirt with a train like this would still have taken a great deal of time.
Dress, 2004.2.2, Friends of the Museum Purchase; man’s silver knee buckle with English crystal stones, late 18th century, worn as a belt buckle on a modern ribbon, probably English, 513, gift of Sarah A. Taylor Dinwiddie.
Net Dress, Fashions for June 1800, Lady’s Monthly Museum (London), published in May, 1800.