Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1835-1850


Costume; Clothing; Main garments; Dresses; Gowns




c. 1835-1850. Brown printed cotton floor-length housedress, one piece, open in front and fully lined, with yoke, dropped shoulders, long full sleeves, and large collar; trimmed with a contrasting print.

The housedress is pieced together out of reused printed cotton. The exterior uses the same fabric throughout, though at different stages of fading. The lining has five distinct fabrics present, some likely older than the garment itself. The trim introduces a seventh fabric.

This is a loose garment with no shaping or defined waist, and its main body is comprised of a four-piece yoke and a four-piece skirt. The yoke is cut close to the neck, and straight across the bottom edge which is finished with narrow piping of the same fabric. It has two panels in front, and two in back with a center-back seam. The left back panel is assembled out of two pieces and the right back panel has a small horizontal piecing at the neck. The yoke extends onto the upper arm, creating a dropped shoulder line; the shoulder seam joining front and back panels is 21.6 cm / 8.5 in. long. The yoke is shallow, not quite reaching the bottom of the armscyes, so it has no side seam. The skirt has four 66.7 cm / 26.25 in. wide panels, sewn selvedge to selvedge at the sides and center back. It is gathered evenly to the yoke in front and back but left flat under the sleeves, where small half-moons, the only piecing present in the skirt, are added in. The front of the housedress is open from throat to hem and is closed with fourteen small buttons. A large collar with points in front, on top of each shoulder, and one at center back is sewn directly to the yoke’s neck opening. The left front point is pieced.

The top edge of the full-length sleeves has piping, sewn on before being joined to the housedress, with the underarm portion of the sleeve extending past the yoke and into the un-gathered area of the skirt. The sleeve design resembles the banded-down fashions of the late 1830s-1840s, with a smooth, fitted band of fabric at the upper arm to which a wide lower sleeve is added. The bottom of the fitted band incorporates a strip of cording sewn into its hem so as to resemble piping. The full lower sleeve is gathered to the band at the bicep and to a buttoned cuff at the wrist. The sleeves have a single seam construction, but their width is achieved by adding in five pieces of fabric at the back of the arm along the seam. Both sleeves have the same complex pattern of piecing. The left cuff is pieced at the button edge.

The housedress is fully lined with the exception of the collar. The lining is constructed to match the shell, including the upper sleeve banding and the underarm gusset, and it is heavily pieced with twenty one individual elements. In addition, not counting the front opening where the outer fabric wraps around to the inside, five different cotton prints are used: one for the sleeves and cuffs, one for the yoke, one for center back, and two for the skirt.

Trim made of strips cut from a fabric printed with stripes and paisleys highlights the collar, sleeve banding, cuffs, and both sides of front opening. Hand-sewn.


Hem: 259.1 cm / 102 in.
Length (full, front): 124.2 cm / 56 in.
Length (full, back): 149.9 cm / 59 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.

Frugal_Fashion_in_the_19th_Century.pdf (1588 kB)
Frugal Fashion in the 19th Century


Dresses, Gowns, Robes, Housedresses, Wrappers, c. 1835-1850, One-piece dresses, Empire, Federal, Directoire, Regency, Printed cotton, Brown (color), Front-opening, Yoke, Dropped shoulders, Collar, Full sleeves, Long sleeves, Piping, Trim, Stripes, Paisley, Buttons, Lining, Hand-sewn