Monday, January 30, 2012

American Civil War Era Bodice (Mourning?)

From the seller:
A stunning 1860-1870 black silk moiré bodice that has recently been de-accessioned from a New York state historical society. The surname Worthington is hand printed on the inside lining. The bodice has a wide hip peplum that has open side vents. The cuffs and hemline are trimmed with bands of black satin. The neck and armscyes are piped. The bodice is lined with cotton and has a front button closure. It is in very good condition. There I some slight underarm discoloration on the inside lining only and one missing button. Bust 31 Waist 24.

From Me:

My guess is this might have been a mourning bodice. I'd love to see the skirt that went with it!


  1. I'd actually say that this is *not* a mourning dress. At least in this period, true/deep/"first" mourning was not only solid black, but in dull, light-absorbing fabrics and materials. (IIRC "first" mourning was wholly untrimmed as well.) Hence the use of crape to cover bonnets; crape, now extinct, was a semi-sheer that had no sheen or shine of any kind, just a lined crinkle texture. Dress fabrics would be wools and wool blends, or non-shiny silks or silk blends. This bodice is a gorgeous silk moire, a very expensive and showy fabric. And trimmed with satin, again shiny and attention-getting. So no, I really do not think this was primarily a mourning bodice. I would love to see the skirt as well; I'm sure it had some gorgeous trimming and design. And it was probably cut up 100 years ago to make something else with such amazing fabric. :(

    1. Hi!

      I was thinking half mourning rather than full mourning. You can see a similar dress with the skirt at the National Museum of Funeral Customs. The bodice there is also black silk but with a fringe trim.

    2. That's always possible, and I could see it being used for sympathetic mourning as well. There's just so many instances of black dresses worn in the period without any implication of mourning, that I have a slight knee-jerk reaction when something is labeled "mourning" without any provenance. Especially since this is such a stand-out bodice, such amazing fabric - so many are ordinary silk. :)