Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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May Durham Kirtland (likely)

Date Created



Costume; Childrenswear; Boys’ wear


Cotton piqué, cotton braid


1900-1917. White cotton piqué boy’s dress and vest; back-buttoning dress with long sleeves and full skirts, vest with opening in front and no fasteners, both decorated with a white-on-white leaf and loop braid pattern.

This young boy’s dress is made with seven pieces: one full-length center-front panel, two side-front bodice panels, two center-back bodice panels, and two back skirt panels. The front panel reaches from the high neckline to the skirt hem and is cut with its skirt extending past the bodice edges along the waistline. The side-front bodice panel on each side of this is sewn vertically to the front bodice portion of the panel and horizontally to the waist edge extensions of the front panel’s skirt. The back bodice panels are sewn at the waist to the back skirt panels. A center-back opening, now missing its buttons, goes the full length of the dress. The sleeves have two seams each and are slightly gathered to the scyes, which have piping of the same fabric, as does the neckline. The matching vest is made with three pieces: two front panels and one back panel. It has no real shaping and no lining and hangs open in front.

Both garments are sewn together by hand, though the very narrow piping at the neck and scyes is applied by machine. More hand-sewing is involved with the trim, for which a continuous length of narrow braid is worked into the shape of leaves and loops. On the dress, this is more elaborate and goes all the way around the skirt hem, with a simpler leaf-and-loop motif at the cuffs. For the vest, the simpler pattern goes all the way around the perimeter beginning at the neckline at front, down the sides of the opening, along the hem, and back up to the neck on the other side. Patterns to make such trims were readily available in women’s magazines and newspapers.

This vest would have been worn by a boy of three or so, one who had outgrown both his long infant dress and his simple short toddler dress, and who was ready for short pants or knickers. It is not known which of May Durham Kirtland’s sons with her husband James wore this. The earliest candidate is Arthur Kirtland, who died on December 24, 1900, one month shy of four years old, and who would have outgrown his toddler dresses only a few months before beginning to wear this garment. His surviving brothers Paul (born 1899), Philip (born 1905), Edward (born 1908), and Lynn (born 1914) could have also worn it, though it is possible that May put aside the suit after Arthur’s death, which preceded his eleven-month-old brother John’s by one week. She donated her mourning dress (see Museum Number 162) and a box of baby clothes (see Museum Numbers 245 and 246) to the collection sometime between 1920 and 1939. Homemade. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Chest: 64.1 cm / 25.25 in.
Waist: 64.1 cm / 23.75 in.
Shoulder (dress): 8.9 cm / 3.5 in.
Shoulder (vest): 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
Sleeve: 19.1 cm / 7.5 in.
Hem (dress): 165.1 cm / 65 in.
Hem (vest): 78.7 cm / 31 in.
Length (dress): 45.7 cm / 18 in.
Length (vest): 25.4 cm / 10 in.


Gift of May Durham Kirtland. Worn by one or more of the donor’s sons between 1900 and 1917. 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.


Childrenswear, Boys' wear, Boys' dresses, Boys' vests, 1900-1917, Exeter, New Hampshire, United States, Cotton piqué, White (color), Back-buttoning dress, Front-opening vest, Long sleeves, Full skirts, High neckline, Braid, Leaves, Loops, Piping, Homemade, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn


item origin