Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1870


Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Silk taffeta, silk satin trim, cotton


c. 1870. One-piece sage silk taffeta dress, closing in front, with full-length curved-seam sleeves and pleated gray satin trimming both bodice and sleeves, and a floor-length skirt fitted to the bodice in front and pleated at the sides and back, with a separate bow on a belt.

The bodice is made of three pieces: two front panels with two boned darts each, and a single center-back panel with curved tucks at side back. It opens in front with ten domed buttons (one missing) and one hook and eye. The neck is high and the waistline is round. The bodice is flat lined with brown cotton.

The shoulders are dropped and the sleeves are full-length, with a curved two-seam construction. They are smoothly inserted into the scye with no gathers, widening slightly over the arm and narrowing to the wrist. An over-sleeve effect is created by adding a box-pleated length of the same fabric around the upper arm, letting it ruffle at top and bottom and puff out between.

The skirt is floor-length and full, longer in back than in front, with more fullness at the sides and back than in front. The skirt is made of nine panels using 55.9 cm / 22 in. wide fabric. The panels in front and on the sides are trapezoids cut to fit the waist and flaring to the hem. The panels at the back are straight lengths tightly cartridge-pleated to the waist, reducing two full widths of fabric down to 10.2 cm / 4 in. before releasing them toward the hem. The skirt is fully lined with brown polished cotton. A belt visually completes the seam between bodice and skirt in front, and the large permanent bow with three streamers sewn to it in back forms a bustle-like fullness.

There is piping at the neck, scyes, and at the waist. A pale gray silk satin trim is applied in a V from the waist at center front, out over the dropped shoulders, and back in to the waist at center back. This trim is 5.7 cm / 2.25 in. wide, and is made by knife-pleating the fabric in one direction then twisting one side to the other direction. It is banded on both sides with pale green silk satin. The same trim is at the cuffs. The pleated fabric at the upper arm is finished with the same two accent fabrics, and the belt and bow are edged with the pale green satin. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 94 cm / 37 in.
Waist: 64.8 cm / 25.5 in.
Sleeve: 54.9 cm / 21.625 in.
Shoulder seam: 20 cm / 7.875 in.
Hem: 596.9 cm / 235 in.
Length (skirt front): 104.1 cm / 41 in.
Length (skirt back): 135.9 cm / 53.5 in.

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, c. 1870, One-piece dresses, Silk taffeta, Sage (color), Front-closing, Domed buttons, Hook and eye, Boned darts, Tucks, High neck, Round waistline, Cotton lining, Dropped shoulders, Box pleats, Oversleeves, Full-length sleeves, Curved-seam sleeves, Pleated trim, Satin, Silk satin, Pale gray (color), Pale green, Floor-length skirt, Full skirt, Belt, Bows (costume accessories), Streamers, Polished cotton lining, Brown (color), Glazed cotton, Piping, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn