Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Rayon charmeuse, machine-made lace


1920s. Dark gold charmeuse one-piece tubular drop-waisted dress, incorporating the reverse of the main fabric as a contrasting texture, with long sleeves and a flaring calf-length skirt.

The dress has one full-length front panel and one full-length back panel, each assembled from six distinct sections that alternate the shiny, satin-weave front of the material with its matte, crepe-weave reverse before being sewn together at the shoulder and side seams. The bodice area from shoulders to hips is made with the satin side of the fabric, and the dropped waistline at the hips is defined with a flattened chevron-shaped band of the crepe side, roughly 4.8 cm / 1.875 in. wide (variable), that comes to a shallow point at center front and back and scoops lower at the sides. A satin band, roughly 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide (variable), is sewn beneath this, matching the lines of the curves, and another crepe band the same width as the first is sewn beneath it. Until this point, the dress is more or less a straight-sided tube, but now satin panels flaring at the sides are added in to form the skirt, more than doubling the width of the garment. Finally, at the hem, a roughly 14 cm / 5.5 in. (variable) band of crepe completes the skirt. At both side seams, between the arm scyes and the first crepe hip band, nine horizontal tucks are stacked on top of each other crossing from front to back, creating a slight shaping.

The front panel has a deep V-shaped neckline, 57.2 cm / 22.5 in long on each side, that reaches all the way into the top of the first hip band. This is framed with a crepe border, added onto the dress, that resembles a shawl collar. The deep opening is filled in to create a much shallower neckline with two crossed pieces of cream machine-made lace on a net ground, with its floral pattern outlined by a heavier gimp thread. In back, the neckline rests at the nape of the neck, and the dress has twelve short vertical pin-tucks coming down from the neckline into the bodice. The sleeves are made with the satin face of the fabric and have one seam. They fit smoothly to the scye and arm, and end at the wrist with a small crepe cuff decorated with a stylized crepe bow with triangles of lace inserted into each side. The dress has no lining, pulls on over the head, and has no fastenings.

The uneven shapes of the various panels and the slight misalignment of elements at the side seams indicate this is a homemade effort. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 116.8 cm / 46 in.
Waist (dropped): 117.2 cm / 46.125 in.
Shoulder: 7 cm / 2.75 in.
Sleeve: 61.6 cm / 24.25 in.
Hem: 256.5 cm / 101 in.
Length (overall): 120.7 cm / 47.5 in.


Gift of Robert and Janet Varney

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, 1920s, One-piece dresses, Tubular, Drop-waisted, Charmeuse, Dark gold (color), Long sleeves, Calf-length skirt, Dropped waistline, V-shaped neckline, Satin-weave, Crepe-weave, Chevrons (motifs), Machine-made lace, Cream (color), Net (textile), Pin-tucks, Cuffs, Bows (costume accessories), Homemade, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Varney (donor)