Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Suits


Ottoman silk, silk satin, silk taffeta, wool


1915-1917. Black two-piece suit of wide-ribbed ottoman silk, with a front-closing bodice, fitted waist, full-length sleeves, and separate gored calf-length skirt, both trimmed with narrow strips of wool, wool Maltese crosses, and tassels of silk-wrapped wooden beads.

The bodice is made of eight pieces: two center-front panels, each sewn to one side-front panel to make a full-width front for each side; and two center-back panels, each sewn to one side panel to make a single full-width back with a center-back seam. The front and back are joined at the shoulders and at 17.8 cm / 7 in. long side seams. The bodice opens in front with five hooks and eyes beneath a V-shaped neckline framed by a wide notched collar extending over the shoulders, decorative cutaway notches at the back, and with cloverleaf (rounded point) lapels in front. The lapel on the right side overlaps the left and extends into a 25.4 cm / 10 in. long tab, divided in two, resembling a stylized sailor suit neckerchief. The waist is finished in front with a 6 cm / 2.375 in. wide sash-like appliqué. The sleeves are full, gathered at the scyes and narrowing to the wrist with five radiating darts. They have a curved, two-seam construction and an added cuff that arches up along the outside of the arm. The bodice and sleeves are lined with white silk satin.

The skirt is calf-length and made of four gored panels, two in front and two in back, that are fitted smoothly to a waistband and flare toward the hem. The hem is trimmed with three overlapping rows of flat curved bands made from the same fabric as the dress, cut on the bias and sewn by their top edges without gathers or pleats to the skirt exterior. The top band begins just below the knee and the bottom band covers the hem. The skirt, bands, and bodice collar are all fully lined with black silk taffeta.

The suit is trimmed with parallel rows of 0.3 cm / 0.125 in. wide strips of wool that follow the contours of the element to which they are sewn. In the bodice these are in rows of three, on the skirt trim bands they are in rows of five. A double row is sewn in long V shapes on the sleeves and in straight lines over each of the three seams of the bodice back. The same wool is used to make appliquéd Maltese crosses, having four V-shaped arms meeting at center, each 7 cm / 2.75 in high and wide. There are twelve crosses on each skirt band, four along the bodice waistline, and eight on the collar. The crosses on the bodice have tassels added to their centers, made with wooden beads strung on black two-ply cording, some wrapped in black silk thread and some with the cord. The four notches in the collar and the points of each V on the sleeve trim have bead tassels without crosses. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 83.8 cm / 33 in.
Waist 61 cm / 24 in.
Shoulder: 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
Sleeve: 59.7 cm / 23.5 in.
Hem: 226.7 cm / 89.25 in.
Length (skirt): 88.9 cm / 35 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.


Women's suits, 1915-1917, Two-piece suits, Ottoman silk, Wide-ribbed silk, Front-closing bodice, Black (color), Fitted waist, Full-length sleeves, Calf-length skirt, Gores, Trimming (decorative material), Wool, Maltese crosses, Tassels, Beads, Wooden beads, Hooks and eyes, Collar, Cloverleaf lapels, Appliqué, Silk satin, White (color), Silk taffeta, Cording, Gathering (textile process), Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Varney (donor)