February 6, 2016

Cutter Family Clothing Archive: 19th Century Striped Plaid Silk Dress

This is another wonderful dress entrusted to us by Becky's good friend, taken out of her mom's attic in Cambridge. The fabric handles like a medium weight, plain weave silk. It has a lustre about it and is very smooth, and a little stiff, like a taffetta.  Looking at the construction and style, I'm guessing it is late-ish 19th century, but it could be earlier or later than that. Maybe some costume or historical clothing people out there can offer their opinions...

The waist is on the high side. It is very narrow as well; check out how it compares to a dollar bill.

So probably would have been worn with an intense corset. The skirt is very full but has no underlayers, so likely would have gone over some petticoats or even some kind of crinoline or hoop frame. Sleeves are about 2/3 length and flare out drastically as they progress. Shoulders are fairly close fitting. Trim is restrained but elegant. This dress is actually rather plain in terms of trim and fancy construction features. Here is the outside, from the back.

Neck area

Looking at some my Patterns of Fashion books by Janet Arnold for the relevant period, nothing jumps out, though the sleeves and collars of 1850-1860 look like they could apply.

This dress from 1870, from Patterns of Fashion 2, has some similar elements in the sleeves and collars.

I think all the sewing is by hand, which makes it more likely to be pre-civil war but of course plenty of garments would have been entirely hand made even up into the early 20th century. Look how nicely the gathers in the skirt section are attached to the bodice.

Actually all the hand work on the dress is extemely well executed, and makes me feel like my own hand sewing is at about the level of a 3 year old child from 100 years ago.

The raw edges are mostly unfinished in internal areas, which also makes this an item which was not expected to be washed often or by machine.

The hem on the sleeves, on other hand has a lovely cover band applied to the inside for about 10cm. Maybe this was to help shape the big diameter split sleeve ends.

The bodice is lined with a fairly heavy weight canvas, unboned.

Surely the boning would be in the separately worn corset.

Sleeves have a lightweight linen-ey lining.

The skirt is lined with a lightweight plain weave silk material.

Skirt hem is well done.

Closures are hook and eye, which I think only came into use at a certain point in time but I don't know when that was.

Here is the note pinned to the dress:

So if it was given in 1951, and belonged to someone's grandma at that time, probably it was made before 1900.


Arlene Terrell said...

Lovely ! I would guess it to be mid century from the scale of the plaid , pagoda sleeves & that fabulous pulled fringe . What a treasure

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you'll see this a year later, but thank you for sharing to lovely closeups. This is a classic later 1850s dress. It would have been worn over the newly popular hoopskirt or cage. The widening bell sleeves with volume around mid-arm, and rather lavish use of fringe across mid-torso, combined with the gauging at the waist rather than the pleating that would take over in the 1860s, are all very typical of the later '50s. This fashion plate from 1858 has a very similar trimming scheme on the bodice: http://www.lapl.org/sites/default/files/visual-collections/casey-fashion-plates/rbc4653.jpg