Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1900


Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Silk, tulle, lace


c. 1900. Two-piece mourning dress of striped black silk and embroidered floral appliqués, with a bodice closing in front, having full-length sleeves and a high collar, and a separate floor-length skirt flaring toward the hem.

The primary fabric of the dress is a black silk with 1.6 cm / 0.625 in. wide stripes, alternating satin and twill weaves for a texture contrast. Further texture contrasts are created by adding elements of black silk satin, black tulle and lace, and appliqués of black silk padded satin stitch embroidered flowers and leaves cut from a plain-weave black silk ground.

The black silk plain weave lining forms the fitted, structural part of the bodice and is made in ten pieces: two front panels, each with two boned darts, boning at the front edge, and one diagonal bone toward the side seam; and an eight-piece back constructed of two back panels with a center-back seam, flanked by three narrow curved panels on each side. All seams are boned for a total of seventeen stays. The front hem comes to a point just below the waistline and the back is straight. The lining has a low square neckline 19.1 cm / 7.5 in. wide in front and 15.2 cm / 6 in. wide in back and closes snugly at its 29.2 cm / 11.5 in. long center front with thirteen hooks and eyes. The fabric flanking the opening is overlaid with a gathered silk gauze ruffle.

The lining is flatlined to the striped silk primary fabric at the side seams, shoulders, scye, and hem. This striped silk has four narrow pieces: two side-front and two side-back panels, sewn together at the sides and the outermost part of the shoulder seams, not meeting at the front and back centers and making V shapes. These Vs are further defined by one 121.9 cm / 48 in. long black silk satin band draped over each shoulder along the edges of the striped silk, extending 8.3 cm / 3.25 in. past the waist point in front and 22.9 cm / 9 in. past the waist hem in back, forming tails. These bands are widest at the shoulders, where they have appliqués of very large flowers embroidered with padded satin stitch draped over the sleeve head. Three coil "buttons" set on top of false "bound buttonholes," both elements made of tubes of black silk satin, are sewn at the base of the appliqués in front, with two more on each front tab, two at the back waist, and three on each side of the tails. The open Vs at center front and center back are then filled with rectangles of vertically pin-tucked dotted black tulle, sewn to the satin bands, and to each other at the shoulder seams. In front the tulle divides down the center where it closes over the lining with ten hooks and thread loops from the high neck to the waist, with each side gathered to 3.5 cm / 1.375 in. wide beneath one 2.9 cm / 1.125 in. decorative rhinestone and jet button. A horizontal appliqué of machine-made lace is added across the collar bone, and vertical almond-shaped lace anchored by one more decorative button is added in just above the edge of the lining neckline on each side. In back the tulle is left in one piece, gathered tightly to 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. at the center-back waist then released below the waist as the center portion of the tails. A 6.4 cm / 2.5 in. high collar made of the same tulle is sewn down along the left side and fastens in place with four hooks along the neck opening from center-right in front to center back, where it closes with three hooks. It is reinforced with three stays. Appliqués of embroidered flowers and leaves wrap around its base.

Three-quarters of the sleeves are made of the striped silk and have one seam, with their fullness gathered to the scye and narrowing just past the elbow, where a horizontally pin-tucked dotted tulle panel covers the forearm to the wrist. The tulle and its seam to the rest of the sleeve are covered with more of the large floral appliqué.

The separate striped silk skirt is floor-length and full, constructed of nine gored panels fitting smoothly over the hips. The fullness is at the center back where the fabric is pleated to the waistband. Toward the hem, at about mid-calf in front and higher in back, a slightly curved horizontal band of plain silk satin fabric is added in to flare the bottom of the skirt. The seam between the two fabrics is covered with the embroidered floral appliqué, and vertical fronds of it climb the skirt at each panel seam as well. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 104.1 cm / 41 in.
Waist: 88.9 cm / 35 in.
Hem: 411.5 cm / 162 in.
Shoulder: 10.2 cm / 4 in.
Sleeve: 63.5 cm / 25 in.
Length (skirt front): 106.7 cm / 42 in.
Length (skirt back): 121.9 cm / 48 in.


Gift of May Durham Kirtland. Worn by the donor after the deaths of her first and third child, Arthur (age 2 years, 11 months) on December 24, 1900, and John (age 10 months, of scarlet fever), on January 1, 1901. She had nine children with her husband, John Copeland Kirtland, professor of Latin at Phillips Exeter Academy from 1897-1939.

Museum Number



University of New Hampshire Library


Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator

Date Digitized


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


The Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection digital catalog was produced by the UNH Library Digital Collection Initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Mooseplate program and New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Additional funding provided by the E. Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.
Photography copyright, Astrida Schaeffer.


Dresses, Mourning dresses, c. 1900, Exeter, New Hampshire, United States, Two-piece dresses, Front-closing, Silk, Stripes, Satin weave, Twill weave, Silk satin, Tulle, Lace, Black (color), Embroidery, Floral appliqués, Flowers, Leaves, Boned darts, Boning, Stays, Square neckline, Hooks and eyes, Thread loops, Full-length sleeves, High collar, Silk gauze ruffle, Tails, Buttons, Rhinestone, Jet (coal), Pin-tucks, Floor-length skirt, Gored panels, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Durham Kirtland (donor)


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