History of the Polonaise
It is hard to ignore the romance of this flattering style, and Recollections has gathered a nice collection of gowns for you to peruse and perhaps make your own!
The Polonaise is a coat-like dress, originally worn by Polish women, and was very popular in the 1770’s and 1780’s. It is a fitted bodice with a full skirt attached. Generally left open at the front, the skirt is gathered up to the waist on either side of the back, creating three distinct drapes of fabric.
The Polonaise enjoyed a huge revival 100 years after it was first popular because of a rather unusual event. Upon the death of the author Charles Dickens in 1871, his belongings were auctioned off. Among them was a portrait of Dolly Varden, a character he had created for his novel Barnaby Ridge. It seems that Ms. Varden was quite the coquette – beautiful, spoiled, and very fond of colorful clothing. Dolly was quite popular with Victorian readers, and “the Dolly Varden look”, based on a description of her green and pink polonaise was quite popular. The sale of the portrait helped to renew the demand for the style.
The Polonaise was meant to imitate the popular trend of dressing like a “simple peasant”. Gathering up the overskirt was thought to emulate the Polish peasant girl tucking her long skirt up into her waistband to keep it out of the muck as she went about her chores. Originally intended as a summer dress to be worn with a bustle, the style soon became popular done up in elaborate silks with many embellishments.
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