Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stepping Back in Time: The Sack-Back

In fashion it seems there's nothing new under the sun. If you follow this blog you'll know that I've been using our wintry weather as an excuse to indulge in some binge-viewing of a certain Swedish TV series. A result of that was some curiosity regarding eighteenth-century women's clothing, and that in turn led me to the sack-back (not featured, incidentally, in the series). The sack-back gown was a style that gradually moved from informal to formal wear and was characterized by loose box pleats at the back.

Eleanor Frances Dixie, by Pickering
L'Enseigne de Gersaint, by Watteau
There is some suggestion that the style may have been introduced by a mistress of Louis IVX to conceal her clandestine pregnancies. There is no doubt that the lines of the garment do a great deal to hide the waistline. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I think you'll agree.
The sack back appears from time to time in the knitting world. Two of my favourite re-incarnations are Kate Gilbert's Pearl Buck jacket, from The Best of Interweave Knits,

and Rowan's Bizet, from their most recent magazine,
I haven't been much of a Rowan fan in recent years, but Issue #54 has a lot to inspire. 
I'm toying with the idea of exploring this interesting and graceful shape, while I put the finishing touches on "Wheatsheaves". Barring the unexpected, that pattern should be available sometime next week. Stay tuned...


  1. This style had a resurgence in the 1950s - I was given two stunning "sack-back" dresses (not sure what they were called at that point) by an elderly friend. One which she had made herself when she was young (and is a stunning work of construction with tons of different interfacings and techniques). They are difficult styles to pull off because they are so dramatic and OTT. I have to admit that I often cinch the waist (and thus the "sack back") of the chiffon dress because it feels more modern that way.

    1. Caroline
      I've seen it in 1950s movies, and you're right, it was a dramatic look. I think it can be worn more casually in a knit. At least I hope so.

  2. This may be my second comment. Not sure where the first one went. I knit a sweater with a large box pleat (one) in the back. It was infinitely flattering and I wore it constantly. I think it was a Nora Gaughan pattern. I love this post with its little fashion history and pictures. Will we get a date bar recipe soon?

    1. Donna,
      Google Blogger has been acting a little oddly the last few days. I'm glad you got your comment to go through. Hmm, not sure whether my date square recipe is all that great.