M. Elizabeth Rand
Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Silk charmeuse, silk organdy
1928. Black silk charmeuse one-piece knee-length tubular dress, with a cream silk charmeuse yoke, Mandarin collar, and full-length sleeves with black, red, and pale green appliquéd flowers.
The dress is complex in construction, though inconsistencies in shapes and stitching betray its homemade nature. It is made with multiple black silk elements sewn to a cream silk charmeuse yoke with matching sleeves and collar. The yoke has one front and one back panel, sewn together at the shoulders, and reaches from just under the arms to the base of the neck where a 4.4 cm / 1.75 in. high embroidered Mandarin collar is added. Beneath the collar in front there is a 9.5 cm / 3.75 in. long slit, very slightly off-center, with a small clear glass button at the top. A two-piece black silk organdy panel, 55.9 cm / 22 in. wide and 60.3 cm / 23.75 in. long, provides a foundation for the front of the dress and is sewn across the front hem of the yoke. This panel is lengthened and finished with a 22.9 cm / 9 in. long band of black silk charmeuse. In back, one panel of black silk charmeuse, 34.9 cm / 13.75 in. wide and 83.2 cm / 32.75 in. long., is sewn to the back hem of the yoke. These black silk panels form the bottoms of the scyes and are sewn to each other at the side seams.
The front of the dress has a 91.4 cm / 36 in. wide panel of black silk charmeuse sewn to the yoke just above the organdy foundation layer. Its excess width is reduced to fit by six inverted box pleats, and the 5.1 cm / 2 in. of fabric between each pleat is folded into a point. None of the seven points made in this way are quite even or straight, and are topstitched in place. This panel is 69.9 cm / 27.5 in. long, ending just below the top edge of the charmeuse hem of the foundation, and its box pleats are topstitched closed to create a single compressed layer for the entire length of the panel except for the last 20.3 cm / 8 in. at the hem, where the pleats are released to flare. The fabric is sewn into the side seams and to the bottom front part of the scyes, leaving only the hem free.
The back of the dress has a short black silk charmeuse cape cut on the bias, its top edge folded into five points matching those on the front, sewn to the yoke at the same level as on the front panel. This fabric is not pleated, rather two trapezoidal pieces with a curved hem are joined with a 41.9 cm / 16.5 in. center seam and left free to swing at the 35.6 cm / 14 in. sides and 87.6 cm / 34.5 in. hem. It reaches just past the small of the back.
The two-part sleeves are made of the cream silk, with one seam. The upper sleeve is lightly gathered to the scye and ends at the elbow. The lower sleeve is more full, and is gathered to the upper sleeve and the 3.2 cm / 1.25 in. cuff, where it also bells. Each lower sleeve has three stylized flowers appliquéd to it, one red, one black, and one green, each a 14 cm / 5.5 in. diameter circle. They are ruched rosettes known as yo-yos or Suffolk puffs, a technique popular in the 1920s in which the edge of a strip of fabric is folded under and gathered into a circle with a running stitch, then gathered with another running stitch at its other edge to meet at the center, resulting in a puffy disk. Here, the disks are attached to the sleeves with a heavy cream silk embroidery thread in large single stitches placed perpendicular to the edge of the disk. At the center of each flower, clusters of French knots form the stamens. These are effective yet coarse embellishments; similarly, the embroidery on the collar is done with very large running stitches in heavy red, cream, and green silk.
The dress has no closures other than the one button at the neck and pulls on over the head. Homemade. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Bust: 83.8 cm / 33 in.
Shoulder: 11.7 cm / 4.625 in.
Sleeve: 53.3 cm / 21 in.
Hem: 112.4 cm / 44.25 in.
Length (overall): 100.3 cm / 39.5 in.
Gift of M. Elizabeth Rand, Associate Professor of Home Economics, University of New Hampshire. Worn and likely made by the donor during her final years at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. She earned her Master of Education at Boston University in 1946, and began teaching at the University of New Hampshire in 1948, remaining at least through 1966.
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, 1928, Norton, Massachusetts, United States, One-piece dresses, Home Economics, Silk, Charmeuse, Organdy, Full-length sleeves, Yo-yos, Suffolk puffs, French knots, Yoke, Mandarin collar, Appliqué, Flowers, Cream (color), Black (color), Red (color), Pale green (color), Ruching, Embroidery, Glass button, Box pleats, Topstitching, Running stitches, Homemade, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Rand (donor)