I have a ROM membership, so I visit often. I ventured to the fourth floor for their Riotous Color exhibit, and took some photos of their 19th century gowns for the world to see and study. Since this is all so image rich, I will post each gown individually.
The ROM describes this patterned silk dress as being semi-formal. I would guess they came to that conclusion for the following reasons:
1. It’s made out of silk, which is a formal fabric.
2. It’s not decorated heavily, which would suggest that it is not a super formal dress.
3. It is long-sleeved. Many of the ballgowns of the period were short sleeved.
4. It has a train, which would suggest that it is formal. However, in the first half of the decade, almost all dresses had trains, regardless of their formality and purpose. There were many complaints made during the day about how women of all classes would be gathering up their long, dirties trains. But throwing the train over one’s elbow allowed a woman an opportunity to show off her legs.
5. I am no expert on printed fabrics, but I am guessing that a printed silk would be expensive. Dyes on silk do like to run, and a multi-colored wood-blocked print would probably be pretty difficult. Yet, the long sleeves and lack of decoration suggest the gown is not meant for very formal wear.
I would guess that a printed-silk, trained gown would be worn at home by a relatively affluent woman.
Here’s the photos: