Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses
1860s. Blue, yellow, and black plaid silk dress with matching separate skirt and bodice; day bodice is front-opening with long full pagoda sleeves; evening bodice is back-opening with a wide neckline and short puff sleeves; and a floor-length skirt is pleated to a waistband.
The day bodice is made of three pieces, two front panels with two darts each, and one back piece with curved tucks. The brown twill lining has the same construction without the back tucks. The bodice has a high neck and the waist is round and at the natural level. The dress closes with five small brass buttons. A 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. wide brown polished cotton waistband has been added, covering the piping edging the bodice, which closes with one hook and eye. The neckline has fold lines and needle holes showing a onetime alteration to the original high round shape. The shoulders are dropped. Pointed cap sleeves are sewn smoothly into the scye above very full pagoda sleeves, which are gathered to the scye. Where the cap sleeves cover the top of the pagoda sleeves, the silk beneath has been cut away, leaving only the brown lining. The over-sleeve and pagoda hem are decorated with a 5.1 cm / 2 in. wide black velvet ribbon. There is piping at the neck and hem.
The evening bodice has a one-piece front panel shaped with two boned darts per side for the bust and one piece of boning at center front, and two back panels with no tucks or shaping. Its neckline is wide and scooped, falling far to the edge of the shoulders. The waistline is at the natural level, very slightly dipped in front with a shallow curve. The bodice is back-closing with seven removable buttons; buttonholes are sewn to the left side, and eyelets for button shanks are sewn to the right. It has a brown twill cotton lining. The shoulders are dropped. Short sleeves are fitted to the scye with a series of tucks at the seam, releasing the fabric over the arm into a puff. The sleeves are edged with black lace and jet beaded trim. There is piping finishing the neckline, scyes, and waist.
Of note: the plaid fabric is used differently for the day bodice than for the matching evening bodice. The day bodice’s prominent stripes are placed to deliberately mimic the fashionable yoke-like bodice trim of this period, low across the bust and over the shoulders. Both bodices have darts beneath the bust, but the evening bodice pulls more fabric into the darts so that the prominent vertical stripes of the plaid form a strong visual V from the shoulders down to the center front of the waist.
The skirt has a plain silk waistband to which the eight straight panels are evenly pleated. Five of the panels are 52.1 cm / 20.5 in. wide, sewn selvedge to selvedge, and the remaining three panels are cut down to 50.8 cm / 20 in., 47.3 cm / 18.62 in., and 38.7 cm / 15.25 in. The skirt is longer in back than in front and has a center-back opening closed with one hook and eye. The skirt is lined in bright blue polished cotton. Hand-sewn.
Bust: 86.4 cm / 34 in.
Waist: 62.2 cm / 24.5 in.
Sleeve: 40.6 cm / 16 in.
Shoulder seam: 20.3 cm / 8 in.
Hem: 387.2 cm / 152.44 in.
Skirt length (front): 101.6 cm / 40 in.
Skirt length (back): 111.8 cm / 44 in.
Gift of Mary Pepperrell Ffrost Sawyer Likely worn by Susan Cowan Sawyer.
University of New Hampshire Library
Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator
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Dresses, 1860s, Day bodice, Evening bodice, Silk, Plaid (pattern), Blue (color), Yellow (color), Black (color), Wide neckline, Scooped neckline, High neck, Dropped shoulders, Pagoda sleeves, Cap sleeves, Short sleeves, Puffed sleeves, Lace, Jet beaded trim, Boned darts, Boning, Removable buttons, Twill cotton lining, Brown (color), Front opening, Velvet ribbon, Tucks, Brass buttons, Alterations, Floor-length skirt, Natural waistline, Hooks and eyes, Polished cotton, Piping, Hand-sewn, Ffrost Sawyer (donor), Ffrost (donor), Frost (donor)