This gold corded silk gown is very interesting in terms of dating and construction. The seamlines on the bodice indicate that it is clearly from the 1890s (1894-7 is a more specific estimate), but the display card and the neckline decoration are plausibly from 1903. It is likely that this gown was refashioned to fit in with changing styles; this was a popular practice for hundreds of years, as clothes that grew out of fashion were either refashioned to the new style or the material was scrapped and used for something else. Waste not, want not! Centuries of women were recycling their mother's and grandmother's clothes before it became the fashion norm (I'm talking to you, Etsy!).
I asked around the fashion history blogosphere for some insight on this dress, and surprisingly, almost everyone agreed that the bodice was on backwards! I never would have guessed until it was pointed out to me, but now that I've noticed it, I realized that the sleeves in this position show the center seam and there is too much fullness at the front of the sleeve--the old museum crew really did put this bodice on backwards!
The gown has large, full cape-like sleeves, trimmed in a matching black lace.
|Large water stain on the cape sleeve.|
|The bodice fastens in front with hooks and eyes. About 1" of the fabric overlaps to disguise the closure. This is the closure viewed from the back--when the bodice was on backwards.|
|Further proof that the neckline decoration was a later alteration: the cream fabric and black lace have been merely basted in, and the edges weren't even cut neatly or turned under. Looks like a pretty quick fix-up.|
|Note the rusting on the bone casings. Bodice is lined in brown cotton.|
|The armscyes have been left with raw edges and basting stitches.|
|Stitches securing the c. 1903 bodice alteration.|
The mannequin's posture is very strange; her hips lean forward and she doesn't have much of a derriere, so the weight of the skirt pulls up the hem in front. Whoever displayed this dressed devised an interesting (read: ineffective and weird) support system: a dirty blue polyester shirtdress folded up and attached to a rope cord that looped around the mannequin's waist. This was covered with a large piece of packing paper stapled to wide grosgrain ribbon, also tied around the waist. As you can see from the photos, this technique did nothing to imitate the posture and body shape of an 1890's woman and the skirt was woefully unsupported.
|The dingy shirtdress. At least wash your clothes if you're going to use them under antique garments! (Don't use them! Use only archival-appropriate materials when storing or displaying antique garments!!)|
|The sleeves drape much better now. You can also see where the delicate black lace trim abruptly ends.|
|The bodice looks so much better this way, but sadly the fading becomes more visible where the edges previously lapped over each other.|
|I wasn't able to fasten all of the hooks since I didn't want to put too much force on the fabric.|
|Before washing the gloves.|
|The rope attached to the handle was tied so tightly I was unable to remove it. It may have been to help keep the purse on the mannequin's wrist. The purse is stuffed with a torn, delicate embroidered silk handkerchief.|
|The final look with the accessories.|