Robe à la française, c.1735. France or Italy. Museum Purchase. Object Number: 2006.56.2. Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology ©2010 Fashion Institute of Technology
A fashionable robe à la française might be made from yards of expensive silk brocade draped over wide hoops, trimmed with handmade lace, and elaborately accessorized. Often dismissed as wasteful, aristocratic luxury supported a host of artisans. According to the great French writer Baron de Montesquieu, there was "an absolute necessity for luxury. Were the rich not so lavish, the poor would starve."