Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses; Gowns
c. 1850s. Red and cream striped printed cotton mull dress with a front-closing, short-sleeved bodice, and evenly gathered floor-length skirt; altered.
The dress is one piece with the skirt sewn to a narrow waistband which is itself attached to the bodice. The bodice has a center-front opening which extends into the skirt and a round waistline at the natural level. The fabric is a very fine cotton mull, roller-printed in alternating ground-printed and figure-printed stripes. The ground-printed stripes are turkey red, with flowers, leaves, and decorative elements left un-inked to reveal the cream color of the fabric. The edges of the stripes have small rectangles extending past the solid border. The figure-printed stripes have sprigs of brown and gold-colored leaves, flowers, and berries on the cream fabric ground, and are edged with a border of small gold-colored rectangles which almost touch the red rectangles but are aligned with the unprinted spaces between them.
The bodice has a fitted cotton lining of two fronts and one back piece, overlaid by the delicate mull. The mull has six panels in all, two each of front, side, and back. The front panels lie smoothly at the shoulders but are slightly wider than the lining at the waist and are gathered to fit. The mull is 23.5 cm / 9.25 in. wide at the waist and is gathered down to 11.4 cm / 4.5 in. on the right front panel and 8.9 cm / 3.5 in. on the left. The side panels lie smoothly, reaching from side front to side back. The back is in two pieces with a center-back seam, fits smoothly at the shoulders and neckline, and is wider at the waist where it is gathered to the center back, 23.5 cm / 9.25 in. wide fabric gathered to 11.7 cm / 4.625 in. The lining shows rust stains from now-missing hooks at the front opening, and the mull is not sewn down to it along the opening edge. The shoulder seam is positioned to the back of the shoulder and the armhole is slightly dropped. The bottom edge of the bodice is finished with a fine, narrow piping of the same fabric.
The dress has been altered from its original state, making dating uncertain. The lining has two bust darts on each front panel, but these are stitched with a clumsier hand and heavier thread than the rest of the construction and it is not clear if they follow an original line. The neckline has been altered into a wide scooping shape and is not well finished. The short sleeves with their ruffled hem still retain their original piped armhole, but have been cut open on the underside and tacked to the sides of the bodice, obscuring the original construction. It is likely that the dress once had long undersleeves, now removed, and that these are the original short oversleeves.
The skirt is constructed of five straight rectangular panels tightly pleated and evenly distributed around the waist. The panels are expertly seamed so as to be almost invisible; four 80 cm / 31.5 in. wide lengths are sewn selvedge to selvedge with careful pattern matching, and one panel at the right of center back is cut down to a 64.8 cm / 25.5 in. width but in such a way as to also match the pattern. A short slit for the center-front opening is cut into the front panel. The skirt is unlined. Hand-sewn.
Bust: 88.9 cm / 35 in.
Waist: 66 cm / 26 in.
Sleeve: 12.7 cm / 5 in.
Hem: 384.8 cm / 151.5 in.
Length of skirt (front): 98.4 cm / 38.75 in. Length of skirt (back): 105.4 cm / 41.5 in.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
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Dresses, Gowns, c. 1850s, One-piece dresses, Cotton mull, Roller-printed cotton, Red (color), Cream (color), Stripes, Turkey red, Front-closing bodice, Cotton lining, Hooks, Darts, Short sleeves, Gathered skirt, Floor-length skirt, Natural waistline, Altered, Flowers, Leaves, Brown (color), Gold (color), Hand-sewn