Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Cotton muslin, cotton lace
c. 1905-1910. White cotton machine-embroidered one-piece lingerie dress with a machine-made lace yoke and sleeves, buttoning in back, with pouching in the bodice and an ankle-length skirt with a fitted waist.
This is a classic lingerie dress, most popular in the first decade of the 20th century for summer activities. Its sheer muslin and lack of lining are typical for the style and it would have been worn over a more modest layer, possibly of a contrasting color to highlight its embellishments of white-on-white embroidery and lace. This example is made from a fabric embroidered as yard goods before assembly into a dress, a repeated pattern of flowers and stylized leaves framed below by a broad horizontal band and above by a steep zig-zag with 12.7 cm / 5 in. sides.
The bodice is made with one panel of embroidered muslin wrapping around the torso from the front and closing in back with a total of nine buttons. The front bodice hem is gathered toward center, creating a bloused or pouched silhouette, and the sides and back are tailored closer to the body with two darts on each side. The fabric is positioned so that the embroidered zig-zags form a slight arc in front, their points reaching the collar bones before dipping toward the sides, and rising in a slight arc across the shoulder blades in back. To achieve this desired placement of the embroidery, and to provide enough fabric to create the fashionable pouched shape, the bodice hem is cut on a curve with more length in front and back than at the sides. This results in a somewhat awkward line made by the embroidered horizontal band, which appears as a segmented arc in back due to the darts, vanishes at the waistline on the sides, and reappears as a bowed line at the bottom edge of the front pouching. The muslin above the zig-zags has been removed, replaced with a single width of machine-made lace patterned with alternating columns of leaves and plaited ground with picots. In front the columns are vertical, and as the lace wraps up and over the shoulders to the back they become diagonal. The sleeves are made of the same lace and are fitted to the arm, ending just above the elbow. They have one seam and are finished with two different narrow machine-made bobbin laces sewn together, with a third trim of dangling pom-poms sewn to the edge.
The skirt is 88.9 cm / 35 in. long, made with one rectangle of the embroidered muslin joined at center back with a seam that interrupts the pattern of the triangles. The center-back opening of the bodice continues partially into the skirt along the seam. The fabric has eight vertical strips of machine-made bobbin lace insertions, 2.54 cm / 1 in. wide and 58.4 cm / 23 in. long spaced around it from the waist: two at each front hip, one at each side, and two in back. The cuts made to insert the lace allow for extra width to be removed, in essence making a gored skirt out of a flat rectangle, and the resulting skirt retains its full hem width while fitting smoothly to the waist, which is itself another piece of the same insertion lace. At the hem, the skirt is lengthened by a 5.7 cm / 2.25 in. wide strip of fabric and 2.9 cm / 1.125 in. of lace ruffle. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 94 cm / 37 in.
Waist: 73.7 cm / 29 in.
Shoulder: 14 cm / 5.5 in.
Sleeve: 24.8 cm / 9.75 in.
Hem: 172.7 cm / 68 in.
Length (overall): 134.6 cm / 53 in.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
Creative Commons License
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Dresses, c. 1905-1910, Lingerie dresses, One-piece dresses, Cotton, White (color), Machine-embroidered, Lace, Yoke, Pouched bodice, Ankle-length skirt, Fitted waist, Back-closing, Buttons, Muslin, Flowers, Leaves, Zig-zags, Picots, Darts, Bobbin lace, Pom-poms, Ruffles, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn