Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
Silk crepe, steel beads
1920s. Emerald green silk crepe one-piece calf-length dress, T-shaped and loose-fitting, with elbow-length sleeves, embroidered with steel beads in Art Nouveau patterns.
The dress is completely without structure, falling loosely from the shoulders, inspired by Paul Poiret’s ground-breaking robe de minute designs from 1908. It is made from one front and one back panel cut on the grain with integral sleeves, sewn together with four seams: one 34 cm / 13.375 in. long at the top of each arm from the neckline to the sleeve hem, and one 85.1 cm / 33.5 in. running beneath each arm from the sleeve hem and down the garment to the skirt hem. The garment is loose and drops down over the head with no closures, and the overall shape evokes a kimono.
The back panel is a straight 58.4 cm / 23 in. wide from side seam to side seam its entire length and is smoothly hemmed to a 36.8 cm / 14.5 in. wide shallow boat neckline. The front panel is 58.4 cm / 23 in. wide at the hem but 84.4 cm / 33.375 in. wide at the top and has shirring for fullness to accommodate the bust while retaining the same neckline measurement as the back. This is achieved by turning part of the front top edge into a neck band matching the length of the back and gathering the fabric beneath to fit: first a horizontal strip is cut into the top edge of the front, about 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. wide, coming in from either side and leaving only 13.3 cm / 5.25 in. intact at center, then this strip has 23.5 cm / 9.25 in. removed from each end and its edges are turned under, and finally each side of the newly-cut top edge of the remaining fabric is shirred and gathered down to 11.7 cm / 4.625 in. before being sewn to the newly-created neck band.
All the way around the neckline, a 2.54 cm / 1 in. wide area is sewn with steel beads in a vine pattern, bordered top and bottom with two straight beaded rows. In back, a plain satin band 119.4 cm / 47 in. long and 3.2 cm / 1.25 in. wide has its ends sewn to the corners of the neckline beneath the beaded area, forming a dangling loop. Another piece of satin, 83.8 cm / 33 in. long, is knotted to the loop and hangs down. This is embellished with beaded butterflies and flowers. At each side of the dress, flanking the side seams and 22.9 cm / 9 in. apart, a pair of similarly beaded 48.9 cm / 19.25 in. long satin belts are attached to the surface, oriented to be tied to each other over each hip. The hems of the sleeves have the same bead pattern as the neckline, but the rest of the dress is far more elaborate with beadwork in Art Nouveau patterns. Seven pointed arches filled with vines, flowers, leaves and butterflies fill the front panel to the neckline above a series of scallop shapes at the hem, with the tallest arch at center and the remaining six stepping down in height on either side. The same design is used on the back panel, except there are five arches. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.
Length (overall): 121.9 cm / 48 in.
Hem: 143.2 cm / 56.375 in.
Gift of Hazel Hill. The donor was an Extension Services specialist teaching sewing.
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, 1920s, Chemise dresses, Robe de minute, One-piece dresses, Art Nouveau, Calf-length, Elbow-length sleeves, Boat neckline, Silk crepe, Satin, Emerald green (color), Embroidery, Steel beads, Vines, Butterflies, Flowers, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Hill (donor)