Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Main garments for the upper body; Blouses; Shirtwaists




1884. Shirtwaist in white cotton with whitework embroidery directly on the fabric and on applied bands and ruffles, closing in front, with full-length curved-seam sleeves, standing band collar, and peplum.

The shirtwaist, a blouse considered to have elements similar to menswear, is unlined and made of fourteen pieces: two center-front panels of embroidered cotton, two side-front panels each made with a narrow embroidered band and a plain cotton panel with a bust dart, two plain side panels, and a six-piece back made with two plain back panels joined by a center-back seam and flanked by one embroidered and one plain panel on each side. The overall styling of the shirtwaist resembles a frock coat worn over a waistcoat. The embroidered center-front panels come to a point at the waist, with all the remaining panels extending past the waist and curving over the hips into a fitted peplum that divides into tails at center back. The coat effect is further enhanced by a 4.4 cm / 1.75 in. wide embroidered scalloped ruffle that is sewn into the seam between each center-front panel and its 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide embroidered side-front neighbor, beginning at the base of the 2.9 cm / 1.125 in. high embroidered band collar, flanking the center “waistcoat” and swooping away along a curved cutaway side-front hem toward the back, where it then outlines the vent at center back that forms the tails. The center-front opening is 38.1 cm / 15 in. long, with eleven flat thread woven buttons, and the back is 55.9 cm / 22 in. long at the center of the tails.

The sleeves are full-length and fitted to the arm, though the sleeve heads are full enough to be gathered to the scyes with a small pop-up at the shoulders. They have a two-seam curved construction using the plain cotton for the inside panel and embroidered fabric for the outside panel. The cuffs are made of the same embroidered bands as the side-front and side-back panels, and its ruffle matches the hem ruffle.

The embroidery is done by machine in three matching but distinct patterns. The narrow bands are designed as columns of large twenty-petaled satin-stitched daisies with openwork centers, joined by pairs of stems arcing from one flower to the next in an approximate stem stitch, with satin-stitched leaves and pairs of small openwork circles flanking the flowers while three circles fill the space between the flowers. The embroidery on the open fabric uses the same elements but in a wider application. Here, the large daisies have an extra petal and have six small openwork circles along one side of their openwork centers, and they have stems which sprout not only leaves, but secondary stems featuring smaller eight-petaled flowers as well as buds made of openwork. The ruffles have a buttonhole-stitch finish on their scalloped edges, with each scallop made of five smaller scallops. Each large scallop has a seventeen-petaled daisy centered in it, still with its openwork center, and with a small stem with a few leaves. Each stem has one openwork bud, and one openwork circle sits between each flower. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 77.5 cm / 30.5 in.
Waist: 61 cm / 24 in.
Shoulder: 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
Sleeve: 61 cm / 24 in.
Hem: 157.5 cm / 62 in.


Gift of the Nims Family. Part of the dress Mary Lorinda Nims (1866-1955) wore as she graduated from Keene High School in 1884, after which she taught in Keene public schools.

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.


Shirtwaists, 1884, Keene, New Hampshire, United States, Cotton, White (color), Whitework embroidery, Machine embroidered, Satin stitch, Daisies, Openwork, Stem stitch, Buttonhole stitch, Ruffles, Front-closing, Full-length sleeves, Curved-seam sleeves, Fitted sleeves, Standing band collar, Peplum, Coattails, Scalloping, Flat thread woven buttons, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Nims (donor), Nims Family (donor)


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