The modern sources disagree on the definition of the robe parée. The glossary from the website of the Fastes du Cour exhibition states that it was a
[c]ontemporary name designating dresses opening onto a skirt of a different shape (à la française or à l’anglaise with turned up skirt) distinguished by embroidered decor distributed over the facings, sleeves and front of the skirt.(It's unclear as to whether "contemporary" means "contemporary to the gowns themselves" or "used today".) On the gallery of the website, the robe parée has a label which states that they had long trains, and were "expensive and refined". Aileen Ribeiro wrote in Fashion in the French Revolution that
... in the 1780s [the française] was accepted at court except on very formal occasions, and at Fontainebleau and Marly where it was not the custom to wear the grand habit. Slightly less formal was the robe parée, which we might call evening dress, and which, at court, was worn for evening entertainments and for dining in the petits appartements at Versailles; this gown could take the form of a sacque or a robe a l'anglaise, but it had to be elegantly trimmed and worn over a hoop.And then in Dressed to Rule, Philip Mansel stated that
As was expected of a queen of France, she ordered an impressive number of dresses every winter: twelve grands habits, twelve robes parées and twelve petites robes.101 In 1780, in the middle of the War of American Independence, the Queen instituted a new presentation costume, the robe parée, with a monstrous hoop, to replace the grand habit. Again the purpose was economic: 'to revive the old form with more magnificence and splendour and that, it is said, on the representations of commerce on behalf of our velvet and gold embroidery factories, which will collapse if the Court does not come to their help.'102(As per usual with Google Books, I can see the endnote pages on either side of the one I want; I'm not entirely sure what the quotation is from, and how it refers to the new court dress.)
So while there is agreement that it was a very luxurious form of dress, the exact form and use isn't agreed upon.
Historic (French) Sources
The term "robe parée", as far as I can tell, does not really turn up in historic sources during the period. The most relevant mention is of course in Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan's memoirs, published after her death in 1822. (Incidentally, Mme Campan was the sister of Edmond-Charles Gênet, who settled in East Greenbush, a suburb of Albany. Two of Citizen Gênet's waistcoats are in the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art, and will be shown in the exhibition, Great, Strange, and Rarely Seen.)
"The wardrobe valet on duty presented, every morning, to the first femme de chambre, a book in which were attached samples from the gowns, court gowns, undress, etc. A small portion of the trimming indicated of what type each was; the first femme presented the book, on the queen's awakening, with a pincushion; Her Majesty placed pins on all the gowns she wanted for the day: one on the court gown she wanted, one on the undress for the afternoon, one on the robe parée, for playing cards or having supper in her private rooms." (Robe parée given as "full evening dress" in the published translations.)
("Robes de fantaisie" are described by Ribeiro as polonaises and simpler anglaises worn without hoops.)
It seems clear that in this context, the robe parée was worn by Marie Antoinette in the evening for relatively private events, and that it is the same gown described as "rich" and being worn over a hoop. But is it a gown style on par with the française or anglaise?
L'Abeille du nord (1807), "Modes":
Manuel des dames (1827), Mme Celnart:
These two references seem to me to be referring to gowns that are "parée", trimmed or adorned in some way, rather than a specific style. Neither quote seems to be speaking of a court gown, but simply evening dress - by 1807, short, puffed sleeves were only worn formally. Further supporting the idea that this is a descriptive phrase rather than a type of gown is a line from Cours d'études des jeunes mademoiselles:
Given that the excerpt is from 1774, prior to the supposed introduction of the robe parée as court dress, and is apparently talking about the ancient Romans, it seems that "robe parée" at least could be used as just a noun + adjective phrase. So the question is: is that what is going on in the earlier references?
I tend to agree with Aileen Ribeiro that, based on the above, it referred to a formal dress that was less formal than court costume. It seems to mean embellished evening dress, not any particular style, and not to be worn at court.
What do you think?