Robe a la Francaise or Sacque or Sack Gown - an iconic gown of the entire 18th century, the Robe a la Francaise, or Sacque, features a pleated back. The Robe a la Francaise was commonly worn over side hoops, and as the century progressed, remained the style of choice for formal occasions.
|The Met - Sacque or Robe a la Francaise - 1750-55|
|KCI - Robe retroussee dans les poches, 1780|
The English Gown (English) or Robe a l'Anglaise (French) - Extremely common in the first three quarters of the 18th century, this style features a tight, fitted back, rather than the draped pleats of the Francaise. The English gown typically closed over a stomacher with the pins hidden beneath double, single, or mock robings. The pleated-back style falls out of fashion in the 1770s.
|The Met - English gown or Robe a l'Anglaise - 1770-75|
The Italian Gown (English) or Robe a l'Anglaise (French) - Beginning in the 1770s, a new style of fitted-back gown replaced the English gown. The Italian gown closed at the center front and featured a seamed back in either four pieces or two, replacing the earlier pleated back. There are several variants of the Italian gown - what we modernly call a "zone" front or cutaway front (below), a chemise front, various sleeve lengths including long sleeves, trimmed, untrimmed, etc. The defining factor is the back seams.
|The Met - Robe a l'Anglaise with a "zone front" - 1785-87|
|The Met, Robe a l'Anglaise worn a la Polonaise, 1780-85|
Robe a la Polonaise - This popular style was possibly named for the division of Poland into three parts in 1772, symbolized by the three portions of the skirt, when drawn up. The Robe a la Polonaise also features a cutaway bodice styled like a man's frock coat, and worn over a gilet, or vest. The bodice hangs loosely front the center front. Polonaise gowns could have long or short skirts, and be worn over long or short petticoats that most commonly matched the gown fabric. The Robe a la Polonaise was in fashion in the 1770s and early 1780s.
|The Met, Robe a la Polonaise, 1787 - click for more views of the front.|
Robe Volante or Robe Battante - This type of gown is from very early in the 18th c and is a precursor to the Sacque. The Robe Volante, or Battante, was a large, seemingly loose-fitting, draped gown, similar to the Robe a la Francaise, but less structured. The back features loose pleats, as does the front. Volantes were closed in front, but often have stomachers peeking out, and were worn over pannier.
|The Met - Robe Volante - 1730s. Click through for more views.|
|Lady Lemon, 1788, George Romney|
|Three views of the Robe a la Turque from Galerie des Modes|
Redingote - The Redingote, named for "Riding Coat," was inspired by men's fashion, and included collars, button fronts or cutaway fronts worn over gilets, long sleeves, and often military inspiration. Unlike earlier riding habits, Redingote skirts extend to the ground and do not include pockets.
|Via Dames a la Mode, Magasin des Modes, 1787|
Levite - The Levite was a style of casual dress with an exotic flavor, similar to the Turque. This type of gown was often loose-fitting with long-sleeved, and the bodice closing in front, but sometimes left open like a robe. The characteristic accessory of the Levite is the sash tied around the waist. Levites were popular in the 1770s and 80s.
|Dames a la Mode, Gallerie des Modes, 1780|
|Marie Antoinette, by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, 1778-1789|
|Dames a la Mode, July 1798|
Round Gown - The round gown was a fitted-back gown with the the skirt and petticoat sewn as one - it is not an open robe. Round gowns exist throughout the century but become extremely common from the 1770s through the 1790s.
|The Met, 1775 - click through and zoom in to see how the skirt is one piece with a drop front.|
This list is by no means complete, and my descriptions are not at all in-depth. There are yet even *more* styles of gown - Habit de Sultane, Circassiennes, variations on themes - and I did not include any short gown or jackets. Hopefully, though, this will give a brief idea of the variety to be seen in just a few decades of the 18th century. It certainly inspires me to make some of these more obscure or specific styles, rather than my typical Robe a l'Anglaise etc. etc. etc.
So with so many styles to choose from, which is your favorite?