Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created



Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses


Silk and wool barege, cotton


1840s. Two-piece fan-front dress of silk and wool barege, printed in green and lavender, open in front, and made with a pleated bodice, dropped shoulders, long sleeves with short over-sleeves, evenly gathered floor-length skirt, and a lace-embellished handkerchief in the pocket.

The fabric is printed with a pattern filling in the ground, leaving the delicate traceries of the design to emerge where the cream woven fabric is not printed. Ombre stripes running the length of the yardage, fading from dark green to lavender to pale lavender to pale green then back to dark green. The cross of the fabric (along the weft) has lacy floral and curlicue stripes. The fabric is used to careful effect. The lavender and green ombre stripes are placed vertically on the skirt, bodice back, and bodice sides. In front, the bodice is draped slightly on the diagonal, the sleeves are cut on the bias to create diagonal stripes angled toward the body.

The bodice is fully lined with cotton twill to provide support for the delicate sheer barege fashion fabric. The lining has three fitted pieces, two in front and one in back, and closes at center front with hooks and eyes; the front edges are reinforced with boning and another bone at center back, and had long, 29.2 cm / 11.5 in. long darts at the bust. The barege layer has seven panels: one each in front, side-front, and side-back, and one center-back panel. The front and back panels are pleated along the entire length of the shoulder seam and fall loosely down the bodice. Both are contained toward the waist by horizontal gathering stitches that create a fan at the front and back of the waist, seven rows in front and two in back. The front panels float on the bodice, attached only at the shoulder seam and waist gathers. At the opening they wrap over the lining closure in a V shape and secure at the waist with a hook. At the side, rather than being sewn to the side panel, which is instead sewn down to the lining, the front panel’s edge hovers just above and is finished with fringed trim, resembling a shawl from shoulder to waist. The waistline dips down at center front.

The sleeves are fitted and are cut on the bias, with one seam. They have a cap over-sleeve trimmed with fringed trim. There is no separate cuff, but the sleeve ends with a double piping strip at hem and another single piping cord runs 1.9 cm / 0.75 in. up from the hem.

The separate skirt is floor-length, same length in front and back, made of six straight, 61 cm / 24 in. wide straight panels sewn selvedge to selvedge and gathered into a separate waistband. The band was once sewn to bodice, threads from this remain. The skirt has a pocket, which still contains a handkerchief.

There is barege piping along the back of neck, the shoulder seams, and bodice hem. The silk trim edging the over-sleeve and bodice front is woven in ombre stripes of white, pink, and green, with picot on the top edge and fringe below.

The front gathers of the bodice have been released to accommodate a larger body; the lining darts have been let out and cut, and stabilizing fabric added to the front gathers after spreading them wider. The sleeves have been altered with a gusset of the same fabric added from scye to elbow to widen them. The skirt waistband has been expanded. Hand-sewn.


Bust: 86.4 cm / 34 in.
Original waist: 65.4 cm / 25.75 in.
Current waist: 88.9 cm / 35 in.
Sleeve: 58.4 cm / 23 in.
Shoulder seam: 17.1 cm / 6.75 in.
Hem: 355 cm / 140 in.
Length of skirt: 91.4 cm / 36 in.


Gift of Fred Ordway

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, 1840s, Two-piece dresses, Silk and wool barege, Printed, Green (color), Lavender (color), Ombre, Stripes, Floral, Curlicue, Pleated bodice, Cotton twill lining, Hooks and eyes, Boning, Darts, Dropped shoulders, Fringed trim, Silk trim, Pink (color), White (color), Picot, Long sleeves, Short over-sleeves, Floor-length skirt, Lace-embellished handkerchief, Hand-sewn, Ordway (donor)