Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Wool barege, polished cotton


1850s. One-piece fan-front dress of wool barege printed with a vermiculated pattern and borders of flowers and leaves, open in front and made with a pleated bodice, dropped shoulders, pagoda sleeves with short puffed over-sleeves, and evenly gathered floor-length skirt with three tiered flounces.

The fabric is a white wool barege with narrow integral windowpane stripes in a twill weave. It is printed with two shades of brown (possibly faded from purple). The overall pattern is vermiculated, comprised of densely populated irregular horizontal shapes, and it has additional integral stripes in two styles and widths: one is 20.3 cm / 8 in. wide with bands and wreaths of leaves running parallel to the vermiculation, and the other is 6.4 cm / 2.5 in. wide with a printed fringe bordering flowers, which is perpendicular to the vermiculation.

The bodice is fully lined with polished cotton to provide support for the delicate sheer barege fashion fabric. The lining has three fitted pieces: two front panels shaped with two darts on each side, and one back panel with a long dart at center back flanked by curved tucks. It closes at center front with ten hooks and eyes; the front edges are reinforced with boning as are the front darts.

The barege layer has five panels: one each in front and at the sides, and one center-back panel. Each front panel is pleated to the entire length of its shoulder seam, carefully taking advantage of the narrow floral stripe to place it at the outer edge of the draping like a trim. The pleats fall diagonally down the bodice and are secured to a 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. wide waistband in the fan-front style. The front panels are not otherwise attached to the bodice. At the side, rather than being sewn to the side panels, which are instead sewn down to the lining, the front panels’ edges hover just above, resembling a shawl from shoulder to waist. At the center-front opening the panels wrap over the lining closure in a V shape and secure at the waist with a hook. The fabric is smooth at the sides and in back at the shoulders, and is gathered to center back at the waist between two curved tucks. The waistline is evenly round at the natural level.

The shoulders of the bodice are dropped. The pagoda sleeves fit the top of the arm closely and flare to a wide hem. Where the sleeves join the bodice, sections of the narrow floral stripe print are added on and sewn into a double row of puffs. More of the narrow floral stripe is added on to the hem of the sleeves in a smooth strip.

The skirt is made of four lengths of the 58.4 cm / 23 in. wide fabric, sewn selvedge to selvedge, and one more length cut down to 49.5 cm / 19.5 in. wide. It is knife pleated to the bottom of the waistband and is slightly longer in back than in front. Three horizontal tiers of 34.3 cm / 13.5 in. wide ruffles are sewn to the skirt with the wide leafy stripe at the hem of each, and each ruffle ending where the next begins. The skirt has been shortened by taking a 10.2 cm / 4 in. deep tuck along the top of the top ruffle.

The bodice, upper sleeve, and skirt are lined with polished cotton.

Piping of the same fabric is placed at back of the neck, scyes, bottom of waistband except at center front, and at the top of each skirt flounce. A brown and white striped fringed trim is sewn to the narrow border print at the outside edges of the front panels and the sleeve hems. Hand-sewn.


Bust: 83.8 cm / 33 in.
Waist: 63.5 cm / 25 in.
Sleeve: 48.3 cm / 19 in.
Shoulder seam: 22.9 cm / 9 in.
Hem: 279.4 cm / 110 in.
Length of skirt (front): 106.7 cm / 42 in.
Length of skirt (back): 110.5 cm / 43.5 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, Fan-front dresses, 1850s, One-piece dresses, Wool barege, White (color), Brown (color), Printed, Vermiculation, Floral print, Leaves, Wreaths, Windowpane stripes, Twill weave, Pleated bodice, Polished cotton lining, Darts, Tucks, Boning, Hooks and eyes, Dropped shoulders, Pagoda sleeves, Fringed trim, Short over-sleeves, Gathered skirt, Floor-length skirt, Natural waistline, Tiered skirt, Knife pleats, Flounces, Hand-sewn