Wednesday, March 27, 2013

American Civil War Era Dress

From the seller:

Here we are offering for sale a wonderful silk dress dating from the Civil War period, c. 1860’s. The dress appears to be entirely hand sewn and is constructed from a tan/light gold iridescent silk; fully lined (both bodice and skirt) with off-white polished cotton. The bodice features the classic coat style sleeves which are piped not only at the armscye but also down the outside seam. Additional piping is found at the waist and the neck as you would expect. The bodice closes down the center front with brass hooks and hand made eyelets, these are hidden by a placket adorned with rosettes made from the dress fabric which have fabric covered buttons at their center. These same rosettes are used to create a “V” on the chest. The cuffs and neckline have an additional trim of blue silk covered with black lace; the overall effect is truly lovely. The full skirt has a combination of box and cartridge pleating at the waist and is bound at the hem with wool tape. The overall condition of this piece is very, very good. The silk is solid with no shattering or splits. There is one tear at the hem which looks like it got caught on something; would be a fairly easy repair by hand in which case it would pretty much disappear; see our photo. There are also a few small spots found on the lower part of the skirt but nothing particularly noticeable. Honestly, this is one of the cleanest silk dresses we have offered in a long time. That fact combined with way it is trimmed make this a wonderful display piece for any collection of clothing from the era; I truly hesitate to part with it but doesn’t seem right that it just sits in a museum box. PLEASE NOTE: We do not endorse any attempt to wear antique clothing and therefore provide the measurements for reference purposes only, not for fit. Measurements are taken in inches with the garment lying flat. Armpit to Armpit 16, Across Waist 13, Across Dropped Shoulder 17, Length 54 and Hem Circumference 122.

From Me:

Probably about 1864.


  1. It may be hard to tell, but my first thought was the fabric and lace around the neck and cuffs was added later. I have never seen a dress with this type of trim and it is so very different from the overall style of the dress. I think it could have been added to hide worn out edges at the neck and wrists. Just my thoughts.

    1. The tan dress from 1865 in this fashion plate has purple cuffs and a purple collar.

      This extant dress has blue trimmed cuffs with a ruffle trim over them.

      Probably part of the inspiration for this gown given the rosettes and the fabric rather than lace collar.

      The silver and blue comobo with blue cuffs.

      Although the collar isn't exactly the same the dress on the far left has a purple collar with purple cuffs.

      Striped collar against a plain bodice, 1864.

      I've found a lot more fashion plates and extant gowns that show the cuffs and/or collar made of a contrasting fabric. However, this is a small selection of the examples.

  2. This dress is adorable! I'm filing away those little button flowers in my "Future 1860s Dress" inspiration. :)

  3. Beautiful dress in a neutral pallette.