Lambert painted this full-length, life-sized portrait in London, posing his subject in a shallow space in an enclosed interior before an ornate wardrobe.
The subject wears an old dress, from the early-Victorian era. She is ‘dressing up’ and posing for the painting. Her facial expression is pleasantly bland, and Lambert may have intentionally sought to reduce the importance of her facial expression.
At this time many Edwardian artists depicted intimate interiors, some showing comfortable drawing rooms with women or girls sitting reading or in quiet contemplation, focused on their own purposes, while others showed everyday scenes of women (frequently nude) carrying out their daily toilette . Lambert followed these artists in placing his subject indoors, but differed from them in presenting her posing in a somewhat artificial manner rather than in a relaxed, natural situation.
Lambert, like other Edwardian artists, was interested in costume and in making reference to the paintings of earlier artists in his work. He emphasised the theatricality of the scene by referring to the dress in the title.
In painting this study in white, grey, grey-green and black, Lambert may have been influenced by Whistler’s Harmony in grey and green: Miss Cicely Alexander 1872–74 (Tate, London), which had been exhibited in Whistler’s ‘Memorial exhibition’ at the New Gallery, London, in 1905. Like Miss Alexander, Lambert’s model is dressed in a tiered white dress and shown turned in three-quarter view, with her hands by her sides. Here, instead of the grey wall with black dado in Whistler’s painting, Lambert has used the furniture to provide a kind of decorative frieze.