Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Silk chiffon, lace, sequins, beads
c. 1928. Black silk chiffon tubular one-piece calf-length dress with sequined allover lace and elbow-length sleeves.
The dress is sheer. The black silk chiffon foundation layer is tubular with very little shaping, and is made from two rectangles of fabric 218.4 cm / 86 in. long. The front and sides of the dress are made from one 91.4 cm / 36 in. wide panel which wraps around the body to the back, and the back is one 45.7 cm / 18 in. wide panel. There is no waist seam and little tailoring, only one dart from each shoulder seam to take in excess fabric above the bust. The dress is sleeveless and has a shallow V-shaped neckline. A tulle ruffle with a 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide pleated frill is added 33 cm / 13 in. above its hem to help provide support for the overlay resting above it. The dress has no closures and pulls on over the head.
The overlay is one 157.5 cm / 62 in. wide rectangle, assembled from three horizontal pieces of a delicate scalloped-edge allover lace to create a length matching that of the chiffon. The two rows of sequin-embellished scallops within the body of the overlay are where the pieces are sewn together. This constructed rectangle wraps around the body from the right side and is sewn together at both shoulders and the left side, leaving the left scye and the bottom 49.5 cm / 19.5 in. at the skirt hem open for a chiffon godet, 71.1 cm / 28 in. wide. Excess fabric is gathered to fit at the outer edges of the shoulder seams. Elbow length sleeves with one seam are made from the same fabric lace, utilizing its scalloped edge as their hem. The overlay has the appearance of a dropped waist, but this is a horizontal tuck which creates some slight pouching above it.
Large flat square beads trim the neckline. A large spray of pink and purple silk velvet flowers is sewn above the chiffon godet at the left hip. In addition to the sequined scallops, the fabric lace is embellished with sequins outlining leaves and flowers, and the hem of the overlay has a 3.75 in. long fringe made of black seed beads. There are large round beads clustered at the centers of the sequined flowers, and these have corroded. They have a whitish-gray powdery chalking or accretion on their surfaces, indicating that they are likely a popular jet substitute called Ebonite (also known as Vulcanite), an inelastic thermoplastic. This is a hard rubber, vulcanized (treated with sulfur) and susceptible to chemical deterioration as sulfuric acid is released. The other beads on the dress remain a polished black and may be jet or glass. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 121.9 cm / 48 in.
Waist: 116.8 cm / 46 in.
Sleeve: 44.5 cm / 17.5 in.
Hem: 137.2 cm / 54 in.
Length (overall): 127 cm / 50 in.
Gift of Robert and Janet Varney
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. 1928, One-piece dresses, Silk chiffon, Black (color), Calf-length, Elbow-length sleeves, Sheer, Allover lace, Sequins, Ebonite, Vulcanite, French jet, Vauxhall glass, Chalking, Seed beads, Ruffles, Tulle, Pleats, Frills, Darts, Godets, Pouching, Scalloping, Silk velvet, Flowers, Leaves, Pink (color), Purple (color), Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Varney (donor)