Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


image preview



Date Created



Costume; Costume accessories; Worn costume accessories; Accessories by location above the waist


Silk, cotton, passementerie


1850s-1860s. Cream silk Swiss waist with narrow shoulder straps, laced at center front and center back, and decorated with self-trim box pleats and blue passementerie or braid.

This Swiss waist has a natural straight waistline and a deeply curved neckline, covering the bust and likely with its straps angled low over the shoulders. It would have been worn as an accessory over a blouse or dress bodice. Each front panel and its shoulder strap is cut in one piece with a cotton lining and is shaped with two whalebone-stiffened darts under the bust. Each back panel and its shoulder strap is also cut in one piece with a cotton lining, and is shaped with a diagonal tuck at the side back. The narrow shoulder straps are sewn together at the top of the shoulder. The front and back panels are sewn together at the side seam with a fairly wide seam allowance, finished with whip stitching, left accessible on the inside. Both center front and both center back edges are cut on the selvedge, with each selvedge folded to the inside and secured with two parallel machine-sewn channels stiffened with whalebone to support the lacing eyelets. Thirteen hand-sewn eyelets at each front edge and fifteen hand-sewn eyelets at each back edge are worked between their two flanking whalebone channels.

Narrow piping made of the same cream silk finishes the top and bottom edges of the garment as well as the armscyes or armholes. The raw edges of the piping are turned under and neatly hand-finished. The Swiss waist is further decorated with a 2.54 cm / 1 in. wide band of self-fabric trim running along the entire neckline and over shoulder straps. This trim is made of strips cut on the bias, hand-hemmed and softly box-pleated, with bright blue passementerie or braid sewn down along the center line of the pleats to form a kind of ruffle. The blue silk thread joining the passementerie to the pleats also joins it to the garment; the stitches are visible on the inside. Machine-sewn assembly, hand-sewn finishing.


Waist: 51.4 cm / 20.25 in.
Bust: 73.7 cm / 29 in.
Center front height: 17.8 cm / 7 in.
Center back height: 20.3 cm / 8 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.


Bodices, Swiss waists, 1850s-1860s, Silk, Cream (color), Lacing, Eyelets, Box pleats, Passementerie, Braid, Blue (color), Whalebone-stiffened darts, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn