Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created



Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Silk, velvet, jet, cotton


Originally 1860s, modified in the 1890s. Shot purple silk satin dress for half-mourning, one piece, sleeves altered with velvet inserts and jet trim for 1890s style, opening in front, and with a full floor-length skirt.

The bodice is made of three pieces, two front panels with two boned darts each, and one back piece with curved tucks. The cotton lining has the same construction without the back tucks. The bodice front has fullness at the center front, ruched at the high neck with three horizontal rows of gathering stitches. The soft control of the ruching is converted to formal pressed knife pleats at the waist, constrained to the hem. The waist is round and at the natural level. The dress closes in front with hooks and eyes concealed beneath the fall of ruched and pleated fabric.

The shoulders are dropped. The top of the sleeve has a trapezoidal epaulet in silk. The forearm is closely fitted but the top portion of the sleeve is very full, having been altered by slitting open and basting in a velvet insert to widen it to a fashionable gigot or leg-of-mutton shape for the 1890s.

The skirt is floor-length, made of five straight panels with one 47.6 cm / 18.75 in. wide and four 84.5 cm / 33.25 in. wide, pleated to the bodice with more fabric at the back. The skirt is lined with brown polished cotton. The skirt is longer in back than in front.

There is piping at the neck, sleeve seams, and hem of the bodice. Trim of jet beads is sewn at the top of the sleeve flanking the velvet insert and edging the cap sleeve.

The dress has been altered for size and style. The details of the bodice, shoulder, and skirt construction point to an 1860s date, but the sleeves now have an 1890s shape, poorly added in, and the velvet cuff is basted onto the original piping finish of the sleeve cuff hem. In addition, the bodice front has been expanded, with piping missing from the center front, stitch holes at the side seams, the lining pieced at the front openings with marks from the original configuration still evident, and the original position of hooks and eyes visible in the silk. There is evidence in pleats at the front of the skirt being let out, with pleats set further apart and more shallowly to create extra coverage needed. Hand-sewn.


Original bust: approx. 83.8 cm / 33 in.
Current bust: 114.3 cm / 45 in.
Original waist: approx. 66 cm / 26 in.
Current waist: 78.7 cm / 31 in.
Sleeve: 58.4 cm / 23 in.
Shoulder seam: 21.6 cm / 8.5 in.
Hem: 381 cm / 150 in.
Skirt length (front): 110.5 cm / 43.5 in.
Skirt length (back): 116.8 cm / 46 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, 1860s, Modified in the 1890s, One-piece dresses, Shot silk satin, Purple (color), Front-opening, Altered, Gigot sleeve, Leg-of-mutton sleeve, Puff sleeve, Velvet inserts, Jet bead trim, Boned darts, Curved tucks, Cotton lining, High neck, Knife pleats, Piping, Hooks and eyes, Epaulet, Silk, Natural waistline, Floor-length skirt, Polished cotton, Brown (color), Hand-sewn