By the time that the couture was born in the 1860s the conventions about how one should be attired were already firmly in place. Since it was nominally daytime wear, and for public consumption, necklines were expected to be high, and sleeves to be long. Beyond those few essentials a dress or suit for visiting could be as lavish, or as restrained as individual taste allowed, but it was expected that whatever the design, the quality would be of the highest one could manage.
Made in 1872, this dress is a transitional one, falling between the vastness of the crinoline and the out-jutting extremity of the bustle. Worked in tobacco brown and camel colored silks, with trimmings of gold silk ribbon, dark brown velvet ribbon, fly fringe, and crimped ribbons, the lady who wore this would have made an undeniably positive impression to the Victorian viewer.
Many thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of New York City for this astounding object.