Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1880


Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


c. 1880. Natural form amber two-part dress, with a silk taffeta underdress closing in front, having three-quarter length sleeves and floor-length skirt, and a barege knee-length overdress, also closing in front, trimmed with matching silk taffeta pleats, chenille fringe, and tassels.

The underdress bodice is made of three pieces: two front panels with two flared darts each, and a single center-back panel with curved tucks at side back. It opens in front with eight large silk-wrapped domed buttons. The neck is high, edged with piping, and the waistline is round and long. The bodice is flat lined with both brown polished cotton and plain white cotton. The shoulders are dropped and the sleeves are three-quarter length, with a curved two-seam construction smoothly inserted into the scye with no gathers, and an added on cuff band. There is a 3.2 cm / 1.25 in. waistband joining the bodice to the skirt.

The skirt is made of five gored panels cut narrow at the waist and flaring slightly to the hem. The front and side panels fit smoothly to the waist and hips, and the two back panels are pleated to fit the waist with a total of four shallow knife pleats at center back. The back is longer than the front, creating a small train. The bottom 51.4 cm / 20.25 in. of the skirt in front and to the sides is decorated with seven horizontal 8.3 cm / 3.25 in. high rows of the same fabric, alternating bias-cut very slightly gathered ruffles with straight-grain crisp box and inverted pleats; the last row is on the bias and is a more deeply gathered ruffle. These appear to be slightly different colors but this is an effect of the bias reflecting light differently than the straight grain. The back of the skirt has only one row of 25.4 cm / 10 in. long knife pleats, made on the straight grain. The skirt is flat-lined with white polished cotton and closes at the left hip.

The overdress is made of barege woven with satin stripes, and has five shaped panels cut with the bodice and skirt as one. The bodice and sleeves are tailored to fit precisely over the taffeta dress: the two front panels have one long dart running from the bust to over the hips and a second dart from the scye to the hips, the side back panels are joined to the back with curved seams but have no darts, and the back panel has a 62.9 cm / 24.75 in. long dart at center reaching all the way from the neck down into the skirt. The skirt is longer than that of the underdress, but is gathered in a Polonaise style to shorten it. At center front, the panels are 116.8 cm / 46 in. long from neck to hem, but 58.4 cm / 23 in. of skirt fabric is collapsed with four vertical rows of shirring stitches into 13.3 cm / 5.25 in. From there, the barege is allowed to drape softly to the side seams where it is pulled up by five knife pleats, then drapes lower in back where it is pulled up once more with two pleats. In back, the full-length of the fabric from neck to hem is 139.7 cm / 55 in., but the finished back length after pleating is 103.5 cm / 40.75 in. The hem is edged with a 5.7 cm / 2.25 in. long brown chenille fringe capped with silk-wrapped balls and a black bead, and the front of the skirt has a second row of the fringe sewn in above that. There is a 30.5 cm / 12 in. long strip of fabric sewn inside the skirt from side seam to side seam, to pull the bulk of the skirt fabric behind the legs.

The overdress closes at center from the neck to below the hips with twenty two tiny silk-wrapped ball buttons. Two 73.7 cm / 29 in. long bands of the same silk as the underdress, worked into six vertical knife-pleats, are sewn from the shoulder seam to the hips, flanking the opening and covering the bust darts. They narrow at the waist, and each is finished with a silk cord knot and two tassels. The neck is high, with a 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. high standing band collar made of the same silk, as is the piping at the shoulders. The sleeves have barege ruffles topped with ruched bands added at the cuffs. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 90.2 cm / 35.5 in.
Waist: 63.2 cm / 25 in.
Sleeve: 48.9 cm / 19.25 in.
Shoulder seam: 19.7 cm / 7.75 in.
Hem (underdress): 193 cm / 76 in.
Length (underdress skirt front): 100.3 cm / 39.5 in.
Length (underdress skirt back): 109.2 cm / 43 in.


Gift of Philip Marston

Museum Number



University of New Hampshire Library


Silk, cotton


Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator

Date Digitized


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International 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.

Marston.pdf (1128 kB)
Marston history


Dresses, c. 1880, Two-part dresses, Natural form, Amber (color), Underdress, Silk taffeta, Front-closing, Flared darts, Tucks, Silk-wrapped buttons, Domed buttons, High neck, Piping, Round waistline, Long waistline, Dropped shoulders, Three-quarter length sleeves, Waistband, Floor-length skirt, Gored panels, Knife pleats, Train, Bias-cut ruffles, Straight-grain box pleats, Inverted pleats, Polished cotton lining, Brown (color), White (color), Glazed cotton, Knee-length overdress, Barege, Satin, Stripes, Curved seams, Polonaise style, Pleats, Chenille fringe, Silk-wrapped balls, Beads, Black (color), Silk cord knots, Tassels, Standing band collar, Barege ruffles, Ruched bands, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Marston (donor)