Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Suits


Silk satin, beads


1920s. Two-piece black silk satin suit with a sleeveless tubular calf-length dress and an open-fronted long-sleeved jacket, embroidered with blue flowers and trimmed with cream beads.

The black silk satin dress is made of three pieces: two front panels with a 40.6 cm / 16 in. center seam, and one back panel. They are sewn together at the 26.7 cm / 10.5 in. long side seams, but both shoulder seams are closed with four snaps each. The width of the fabric at the front of each shoulder is controlled with four rows of shirring stitches, and the neckline in front is a shallow V. The center and hem of the bodice is machine embroidered with two-tone blue flowers, with iridescent bugle beads added as the centers of some of them. Pearlescent puffed disk beads are also added. An edging made with a row of the puffed beads surrounded by the iridescent seed beads encircles the neckline, is doubled down the center of the front, and encircles the waistline, hiding the waist seam.

The inconsistencies in shapes and stitching that point to the homemade nature of this garment are most evident in the skirt. It has four main pieces: one hexagonal panel at center front and at center back, and one triangular panel at each side. At the top, the center panels have one small triangular godet added in on each side to transform them into trapezoids and ensure the necessary waist measurement. None of these pieces quite matches any of the others. The skirt is sewn to the bodice at the slightly dropped waistline.

It has two front panels and one back panel, and is slightly shorter than the length of the dress bodice, with a side seam of 20.3 cm / 8 in. There is a 19.1 cm / 7.5 in. long dart from each shoulder seam to the bust, and three short pin tucks at the back of the neck. Its front edge is trimmed with offcuts of the embroidered fabric, and there is piping around the hem. The full-length sleeves have one seam and are loosely fitted to the arm; they end in pointed cuffs. Homemade, with irregular shapes. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 53.3 cm / 21 in.
Waist: 97.6 cm / 38.5 in.
Sleeve: 54 cm / 21.25 in.
Hem (skirt): 254 cm / 100 in.
Hem (jacket): 72.4 cm / 28.5 in.
Length (skirt front): 68.6 cm / 27 in.
Length (skirt back): 76.2 cm / 30 in.

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, 1920s, Two-piece suits, Silk satin, Black (color), Sleeveless dress, Calf-length, Open-front jacket, Long sleeves, Embroidery, Machine embroidery, Flowers, Blue (color), Beads, Bugle beads, Puffed disk beads, Seed beads, Cream (color), Snaps, Shirring stitches, Darts, Pin tucks, Godets, Cuffs, Homemade, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn