Despite--or perhaps because of--their ubiquity in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, short gowns are a rare survival today. They served as comfortable everyday attire and workwear, usually worn over a shift and petticoat, and were the garment of choice for laborers. Patterns like the tiny block-printed strawberries on this example would have added visual interest to an otherwise unfussy and simplistic form.
The loose-fitting, thigh-length shape also made the short gown useful for maternity and nursing. The larger dimensions of this example, with two linen tapes tying at center front, could point to such use. The rear is fitted with box pleats releasing below waist for fullness and it is partially lined in linen, the linen underbodice closing at center front with four hooks–and–eyes
Its excellent state of preservation, save for an early repair to a small tear in the right sleeve, also suggests it was little worn.