Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Wool, velvet, lace


1908. Lightweight cream wool three-piece dress, having a bloused or pouched bodice closing in front at the left, with a lace yoke and high lace band collar, machine-embroidered trim, and full-length two-part sleeves, a floor-length gored and pleated skirt with inserted lace panels, and a separate pink velvet cummerbund sash with a machine-embroidered panel.

The bloused or pouched bodice once had a silk lining that provided structure, but this has deteriorated leaving no trace of boning or internal support. The bodice itself is made of three main pieces: two asymmetrical front panels that reach only to the bust, and one back panel reaching to the shoulder blades and which has a small pleat above the waist at center. The panel covering the right two-thirds of the front attaches to the narrow left front panel with nine hooks, and has a box pleat at center with seven knife pleats to the right and three to the left, while the left panel is plain. This creates the only asymmetrical element of the entire ensemble. The neckline above these front panels is a wide, low scoop across the bust, curving down from the point of the shoulders. The edge of this scoop is defined across each shoulder with a 6.4 cm / 2.5 in. wide wool band decorated with machine-embroidered flowers, vines, and leaves in variegated thread, hand-embroidered with pink French knots, and a cream silk border. Between these in front, covering the bust, is an 8.9 cm / 3.5 in. high added-in squared-off panel of machine-embroidered wool with horizontal cream silk satin pleats. This panel is then itself bordered on the top and sides with the same trim treatment as the shoulders, and along its rounded bottom with a curved band of French-knot-decorated wool trim and a knife-pleated silk frill. Pink velvet tabs topped with cream silk cord knots and silk thread-wrapped wooden beads dangling from cords mark each side of the bust where the shoulder bands meet the center panel. The back of the bodice has a rising squared neckline echoing the front, edged with the same wool embroidered trim. The corners have the same cord knots with wrapped beads, but no velvet tabs. The area above this low trim-framed neckline is filled in with a machine-made lace yoke over cream silk taffeta, which rises to meet a 7 cm / 2.75 in. high standing band collar of lace edged with pink velvet and trimmed with narrow wool strips embroidered with French knots. The collar fastens with three hooks in back. The lace in front is cut with a vertical opening below the left shoulder, fastening with eight hooks, before it turns to follow the line of the shoulder seam, fastening with another three hooks to the base of the collar.

The sleeves are full at the top and narrow toward the wrist. They have a 20.3 cm / 8 in. long loose oversleeve in wool edged in pink velvet, and a full-length wool undersleeve made with two seams that is gathered to long, irregular cuffs. The cuffs are trimmed with panels of lace and edged with cream silk knife pleats.

The bodice waist falls at the natural level but appears higher due to a pink pleated velvet cummerbund sash with a panel of machine-embroidered flowers, which sits at the waist and extends up into the bodice, visually shortening the line. Its hem has a slight curved dip in back, and is slightly more dipped in front. It closes on the left side with six hooks and is boned at center front and at the left side. The sash hides hooks sewn to the exterior of the bodice that catch eyes on the skirt waistband, securing them to each other; there are three hooks at the skirt back, one hook at each side, and one hook at center front.

The skirt is made of ten gored panels, pleated to fit the body at the top and releasing the fullness of the fabric below the knees. The center-front panel has a topstitched inverted box pleat running full length down its middle. There are four narrow box-pleated panels that divide the front from the two side-front panels that flank it, and then the side-front panels from the two side-back panels. The back of the skirt is one panel with a double-stacked box pleat that hides the skirt opening, a 24.1 cm / 9.5 in. long slit closed with three snaps and two hooks at the waist. Each side-front and side-back panel has darts shaping the hips, as well as a topstitched inverted box pleat running full length down the middle to the hem. These four panels are all interrupted 54.6 cm / 21.5 in. down from the waist by a curved arc of inserted lace, beneath which the wool resumes to the hem. The wool is sewn with radiating darts that emerge from the bottom edge of each lace insert. The inserted panels are edged with 1.3 cm / 0.5 in. wide curved wool strips embroidered with French knots. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 87.6 cm / 34.5 in.
Waist: 55.9 cm / 22 in.
Shoulder: 11.4 cm / 4.5 in.
Sleeve: 55.9 cm / 22 in.
Hem: 447 cm / 176 in.
Length (skirt front): 99.1 cm / 39 in.
Length (skirt back): 104.1 cm / 41 in.


Gift of the Family of Clara Savage O’Connell of Locke, New York, in memory of her mother Clara Genevieve Blandford Savage and her father Elmer Seth Savage. Worn by Clara Blandford after her September 9, 1908 wedding to Elmer Seth Savage at the home of her sister, Anna Cecilia Blandford Sanderson, in Durham, New Hampshire.

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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, 1908, Durham, New Hampshire, United States, Belle Époque, Three-piece dresses, Wool, Cream (color), Bloused bodice, Pouched bodice, Yoke, Lace, Silk taffeta, Band collar, Machine-embroidered, Hand-embroidered, Full-length sleeves, Two-part sleeves, Oversleeves, Cuffs, Floor-length skirt, Gores, Silk satin, Box pleats, Knife pleats, Inverted box pleats, Double-stacked box pleats, Lace panels, Velvet, Pink (color), Cummerbund, Sash, Silk lining, Hooks and eyes, Snaps, Flowers, Vines, Leaves, Darts, French knots, Variegated thread, Frills, Trimming (decorative material), Cord knots, Thread-wrapped beads, Wooden beads, Boning, Topstitching, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Family of Clara Savage O’Connell (donor)


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