Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1870


Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


c. 1870. One-piece black silk dress trimmed with matching silk ruffles, closing in front, with full-length curved-seam sleeves, and floor-length skirt fitted to the bodice in front and cartridge pleated in back.

The bodice is made of three pieces: two front panels with two darts each, and a single center-back panel with curved tucks at side back. It opens in front with nine black domed braid buttons. The neck has a 1.3 cm / 0.5 in. high standing band collar and the waistline is round. The bodice is flat lined with brown cotton twill.

The shoulders are dropped and the sleeves are full-length, with a curved two-seam construction first introduced between 1884-1868. They are smoothly inserted into the scye with no gathers, bell toward the elbow, and narrow back down at the wrist.

The skirt is floor-length and full, slightly longer in back than in front, with more fullness at the sides and back than in front. The skirt is made of five panels using 57.2 cm / 22.5 in. wide fabric. The two panels in back are straight lengths, tightly cartridge pleating 114.3 cm / 45 in. of skirt fabric down to 15.2 cm / 6 in., the width of the back panel of the bodice. The panels at each side and in front are full toward the hem, but are trapezoids cut narrower at the waist and tailored closely to the body with one large shallow box pleat each to control excess fabric, then widened at the hem with one added godet each. The skirt is fully lined with brown polished cotton.

There are some alterations in the bodice: a snap has been added at the waist, and one dart on each front piece has been let out, with stitch marks remaining.

There is piping at the scye, cuff, and waist. A self-fabric trim of box-pleated ruffles with a bound bottom edge and folded under top edge, 4.8 cm / 1.875 in. wide, drapes in a low yoke shape across the bodice front from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, as well as in a swoop beginning at the inside sleeve seam, running along the cuff, and curving up to the outside sleeve seam. A larger version of the same trim, 7.3 cm / 2.875 in. wide, is sewn in four swags on the skirt, one each in front, the sides, and the back, accented at the peak with black silk ribbon bows, mimicking the look of an apron or over skirt. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Bust: 96.5 cm / 38 in.
Waist: 67.3 cm / 26.5 in.
Sleeve: 52.1 cm / 20.5 in.
Shoulder seam: 24.1 cm / 9.5 in.
Hem: 357.5 cm / 140.75 in.
Length (skirt front): 104.1 cm / 41 in. Length (skirt back): 106.7 cm / 42 in.

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.


Dresses, c. 1870, One-piece dresses, Silk, Black (color), Silk ruffles, Front-closing, Darts, Tucks, Domed braid buttons, Standing band collar, Alterations, Snap, Cotton twill lining, Brown (color), Dropped shoulders, Full-length sleeves, Curved-seam sleeves, Round waistline, Floor-length skirt, Full skirt, Cartridge pleats, Polished cotton lining, Glazed cotton, Piping, Box-pleated ruffles, Yoke shape, Swags, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn