Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Crepe, cord, silk
1930s. Black crepe sleeveless one-piece floor-length evening gown with graduated pin-tucks, crepe shoulder straps, and long black cord tassels.
The dress is made from a black crepe that has been horizontally pin-tucked from inside to create texture and shaping. The stitch lines are not even, indicating a homemade garment. From the outside, the effect is of a fabric assembled from many horizontal strips. The distance between the tucks varies depending on their location in the dress, narrowest in the bodice and widening toward the hem. In front, there are twenty-six bands ranging between 1.9 cm / 0.75 in. and 12.4 cm / 4.875 in. wide and staying essentially horizontal. In back, there are seventeen bands ranging between 2.54 cm / 1 in. and 27.9 cm / 11 in. wide, with the strips staying horizontal and narrow in the bodice, and with each row growing markedly wider below the waist and curving slightly upward. The pin-tucking was done before the dress was assembled.
The entire dress fits snugly to the body with shaped panels and seams, and benefiting from the bias drape of the fabric. The bodice has a high waistline coming to just below the bust and is made of four pieces: one front panel, two side-back panels, and a center-back panel. The front panel cuts straight across the top of the bust, measuring 15.2 cm / 6 in. high at center, before dipping to the seam under the arm with the side-back panel, and has slight gathers beneath the bust. The back panel has a slightly scooped neckline shape and is 120 cm / 47.25 in. long, running the full length of the gown into the skirt and its slight train. At the waist, the back panel is 15.2 cm / 6 in. wide, flaring to 88.9 cm / 35 in. wide in the train. The skirt has two added panels sewn together with a center-front seam that wrap around to join the back panel. These panels are 31.8 cm / 12.5 in. wide at the waist seam, widening to 87.6 cm / 34.5 in. at the hem, and are further shaped to the torso with 12.7 cm / 5 in. long darts at the sides. The dress has a simple black silk lining made of one front and one back panel sewn together at the sides and to the dress along the neckline.
The most dramatic element of the dress involves its shoulder straps and cord tassels. In front, 172 two-ply cords, 104.1 cm / 41 in. long, are woven into 35.6 cm / 14 in. of the top edge of the fabric, creating a shallow V neckline when they are divided in half at the center line and draped over each shoulder to hang down the back. From the back where they are sewn to the top of the side-back panel, 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide, 48.3 cm / 19 in. long crepe straps are first crossed over to reach the opposite shoulder, and are then wrapped once fully around the front cords draped there, from the outside to the inside and back to the outside. The wrapping is then sewn in place, trapping the cords into a permanent shoulder strap structure, and the end of each crepe strap is sewn to the front of the dress. Sixty-two cords of the same length are woven into the ends of the crepe straps and hang down the front of the dress.
The dress pulls on over the head. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 88.9 cm / 35 in.
Waist: 71.1 cm / 28 in.
Hips: 99.1 cm / 39 in.
Hem: 264.2 cm / 104 in.
Length (front): 137.2 cm / 54 in.
Length (back): 144.8 cm / 57 in.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
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Dresses, 1930s, One-piece dresses, Evening gowns, Crepe (textile), Black (color), Floor-length, High waistline, Pin-tucks, Shoulder straps, Cord tassels, Gathering (textile process), Trains (costume components), Darts, Silk lining, Homemade, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn