The Many Blue Dresses:
Mr and Mrs Andrews by Gainsborough 1748-49
Mr and Mrs Carter by Gainsborough. 1747-48
Mr and Mrs Kirby by Gainsborough. 1751-52
Portrait of a Woman - Possibly of the Lloyd Family by Gainsborough. 1750's
Thomas Gainsborough with his Wife and Eldest Daughter Mary by Gainsborough. 1751-52
The Gravenor Family by Gainsborough. 1754.
This is the beginning of some slow studying.
Though they all appear incredibly similar at first glance, there are some marked differences. All of them have the same double-pleated (or 'Front Pleats' as referred to by Bennet and Witt and also Bradfield '68) and open-fronted Bodices with a white neckerchief tucked in.
Mrs Carter's the only one (as far as I can tell) who's wearing a full sack, Mrs Kirby appears to be wearing a short sack (or 'Pet-en-lair' or also a 'French Jacket' - Arnold 1984) and so does Mrs Thomas, although it is so incredibly vague it's hard to tell. If you look at her portrait there is a clear line on the left (her right) of a piece of fabric cutting across the others and only the darest hint of one on the other side. I think it more likely to be a 'Short Sack' than a train tucked over but this is not to be ruled out.
The rest appear to be in simple Robe a la Anglais' (or 'not sack-back gowns').
This is only a quick glance. I'm hoping to get into drawings and pattern techniques and looking at other similar dresses as I go, but it's amazing what you can get out of a painting when you really sit and look at it.
I'm especially interested in the doing up of the bodices. It would be wonderful to find a gown outside of a painting to have a closer look at or a painting that's without the neckerchief tucked in so as it's easier to study.
But this is how it starts; getting back to good ol' fashioned researching.