Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Silk satin, point d’esprit bobbinet, silk chiffon, cord and braid
c. 1915-1918. One-piece black point d’esprit two-twist bobbinet dress with a black silk satin bodice trimmed with black organdy appliqués of flowers and leaves edged with black two-ply cord and braid, closing in front and at the side, with gold lace shoulder straps over three-quarter-length angel sleeves, and a tiered mid-calf-length skirt.
The dress has sheer sleeves and skirts, and would have been worn with a petticoat of contrasting color to highlight the semi-sheer appliqués. Its bodice has a structured black silk satin foundation layer, made of ten pieces: two front panels with a center-front opening, each sewn to a side-front panel with a seam curving over the bust, and a six-piece back constructed of two back panels with a center-back seam, flanked by two curved panels on each side. All seams and both front edges are boned, for a total of eleven stays. The center-front opening is 25.4 cm / 10 in. high and has seven hooks. The neckline is broad and slightly scooped in front, skimming the top of the bust, and is just slightly higher in back. The bodice is held in place with 4.4 cm / 1.75 in. wide shoulder straps sewn at the outer edges of the neckline, completely covered with lengths of gold lace. The hem extends past the waist and flares over the top of the hips in a gentle curve.
The bodice has a draped overlay made of two rectangles of the same silk satin, horizontally pleated before being sewn together and to the foundation at the right side of the bodice. The back panel is then also sewn in place at the left side. The front panel is free-floating, allowing access to the center-front foundation layer opening beneath. It snaps once to the left side of the neckline and to the left shoulder strap before securing along the left side seam with five hooks. Both front and back are allowed to hang in soft folds between the shoulders, and come only to the natural waistline, leaving the rounded hem of the foundation layer visible.
One piece of black dotted point d’esprit bobbinet forms both sleeves and a pleated drape joining them across the back neckline. The sleeves have one seam under the arms and no scye or shoulder seams; their fabric extends over the shoulders to cover the gold lace on the shoulder straps and they are sewn to the foundation layer beneath the bodice overlay, which is tacked or snapped in place to hide the ends of the lace. The sleeves are moderately loose on the arm and have open hems that end just below the elbow in front and come to a longer point in back. They are trimmed along the outside of the arm with a pattern of looped leaves and flowers on a vine from which diagonal fronds spread into the fabric; these are cut from black silk organza and are sewn along the edges with a continuous length of two-ply black cord. Double loops of narrow black braid decorate the center of each leaf and petal, and the vine joining the leaves together is made with the braid laid along the center, flanked by the cord. The point d’esprit at the hems is cut away along the leaves, creating a hem with small scallops. The swag of pleated point d’esprit between the shoulders has a larger motif centered at the upper back.
The skirt has six tiers, with a simple plain black two-twist bobbinet underskirt supporting all but one of the elements. This has one front panel and two back panels sewn smoothly to the bodice foundation layer just beneath the bust. A 21.6 cm / 8.5 in. long slit with no closures is cut into the front beneath the bodice center opening, to accommodate dressing. The underskirt is 132.1 cm / 52 in. wide at its hem where a slightly-curved 30.5 cm / 12 in. wide extension of point d’esprit bobbinet is added, without gathers, to complete the skirt length, giving the dress a final hem width of 204.5 cm / 80.5 in. A second slightly-curved strip of point d’esprit, 17.8 cm / 7 in. wide, is added just above the extension. Both strips are hemmed with the running vine and fronds portions of the trim, and their hems are cut into scallops to follow the contours of the leaves. A 12.7 cm / 5 in. wide strip of slightly-curved point d’esprit, trimmed the same way, is sewn without gathers to the bobbinet 24.8 cm / 9.75 in. above the extension seam, with two narrow rows of knife-pleated plain bobbinet sewn to it behind its trim.
The outermost skirt element is a free-floating panel of point d’esprit made from one piece of fabric 243.8 cm / 96 in. wide, measuring 55.9 cm / 22 in. long in front and 2.54 cm / 1 in. longer in back, that is sewn to the hem of the bodice overlay with gathers at the sides and back. It has a center-back seam and a vertical slit with four snaps at the left side beneath the bodice overlay opening, to accommodate dressing. The panel uses the same trim motif described above, but with more elaborate branchings, and with the vine along the hem forming eight large arching scallops. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 88.9 cm / 35 in.
Waist: 71.1 cm / 28 in.
Shoulder: 4.4 cm / 1.75 in.
Sleeve (front): 44.5 cm / 17.5 in.
Sleeve (back): 58.4 cm / 23 in.
Hem: 204.5 cm / 80.5 in.
Length (skirt front): 100.3 cm / 39.5 in.
Length (skirt back): 102.9 cm / 40.5 in.
Gift of Mary Pepperrell Ffrost Sawyer, Margaret Hamilton Ffrost, and Elizabeth Rollins Ffrost. Likely worn by the donors’ mother, Martha Hale Low (1842-1925).
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Dresses, c. 1915-1918, Dover, New Hampshire, United States, One-piece dresses, Point d’esprit, Bobbinet, Two-twist bobbinet, Overlay, Silk satin, Black (color), Organdy, Silk organza, Angel sleeves, Three-quarter length sleeves, Tiered skirt, Mid-calf length skirt, Underskirt, Appliqué, Flowers, Leaves, Two-ply cord, Braid, Lace, Gold (color), Shoulder straps, Broad neckline, Sheer, Petticoat, Boning, Stays, Hooks, Snaps, Pleats, Knife pleats, Scalloping, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Ffrost Sawyer (donor), Ffrost (donor), Frost (donor), Hamilton Ffrost (donor), Rollins Ffrost (donor)