Family tradition states that Martha Washington's sister, Elizabeth, wore this graceful sack-back gown. Elizabeth subsequently willed it to her daughter-in-law to be cut up and used as furniture coverings. Fortunately, the gown never suffered that fate and was passed down intact.
As with many gowns of expensive imported silk, this gown was remodeled about 20 years after it was first made. Textiles were too valued to throw away when the gown became old-fashioned. It is conceivable that these alterations were done because imported silks were being targeted as prohibited imports during the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. It might have been considered patriotic to remake an old gown, rather than import new English silk.