Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses; Housedresses


Wool, silk ribbon


1880s. Cranberry red wool one-piece natural form housedress, homemade, closing in front, with full-length sleeves and floor-length skirt, trimmed with self-trim pleats and ruching, and silk ribbon accents.

The dress has multiple waist seams, with each panel joining its bodice section to its skirt section before being sewn to the panel next to it. There are six main pieces: two front panels, two side-back panels, and one center-back panel. The front panels are rectangles, each shaped to hug the body with two long darts, in the princess style, going from beneath the bust to over the hip, measuring 38.7 cm / 15.25 in. long, and a third dart going from the scye to the hip at the side, 31.8 cm / 12.5 in. long. The skirt panels are cut as gores, flaring to the hem 43.2 cm / 17 in. wide on the right side and 40.6 cm / 16 in. wide on the left. At the waist, they reach from center front and past the third bodice dart, where another 44.5 cm / 17.5 in. wide gored panel on the right and 46.5 cm / 18.25 in. panel on the left is added into the last part of the front bodice piece. The side back panel is narrow in the bodice and is sewn at the waist to a gored panel flaring to the hem, measuring 37.5 cm / 14.75 in. on the right side hem and 38.1 cm / 15 in. wide on the left; these waist seams are level with each other but lower than the front waist seams. The back panel appears to have a bodice seam at center back, but this is in fact a long dart going from the neck to the hips, 50.8 cm / 20 in. long. Its waist seam is completely uneven. Between the side-back and center-back panels, skirt fullness is pleated in inverted box pleats at the hips with fabric released toward the hem. The skirt is floor length, with no train, but because of the gored panels and inverted pleats in back it is fuller in back than in front.

The dress has a center-front closure, with large red carved shell buttons that go from neck to hem. Fifteen buttons are functional, with buttonholes, and thirteen buttons sewn directly to the placket but are not functional. The neck is high, with a standing band collar 3.5 cm / 1.375 in. high. The sleeves are full-length, with a curved two-seam construction. They are smoothly inserted into the scye with no gathers, have slight gathers at the elbow, and cuffs at the wrist. There is a lace fall at the cuffs. The bodice is lined in brown polished cotton to the hips, and the skirt is unlined except for a strip of cotton at the hem. There are two patch pockets, one at each side.

Twelve yards of the wool fabric is knife-pleated into trim and capped with box pleats of the same fabric. It wraps around the back of the neck, flanks the center-front opening, and sweeps around to the back of the dress at knee-level. The same trim finishes the cuffs and pockets. The skirt has a longer knife pleated frill topped with a band of ruching at the hem. Six matching silk ribbon bows are sewn down the front opening, at every ten inches along the knee-height pleated trim, and two per pocket. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn. Homemade.


Bust: 82.6 cm / 32.5 in.
Waist: 77.5 cm / 30.5 in.
Sleeve: 53.3 cm / 21 in.
Shoulder seam: 14 cm / 5.5 in.
Hem: 298.5 cm / 117.5 in.
Length (skirt front): 102.9 cm / 40.5 in.
Length (skirt back): 104.1 cm / 41 in.


Gift of Daisy Deane Williamson

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.


Dresses, 1880s, One-piece dresses, Robes, Wrappers, Natural form, Housedresses, Wool, Cranberry red (color), Princess style, High neck, Standing band collar, Front-closing, Full-length sleeves, Self-trim pleats, Ruching, Frills, Bows (costume accessories), Silk ribbon, Darts, Carved shell buttons, Lace, Knife pleats, Box pleats, Pockets, Polished cotton, Glazed cotton, Brown (color), Floor-length skirt, Gores, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Homemade, Deane Williamson (donor)