Monday, February 10, 2014

Late American Civil War Young Lady's Outfit

From the seller:

This wonderful, late 1860's [1865-1871] 3-piece day gown - "Robe a la Transformation" [**please see below for the information a very kind and knowledgeable ebayer has sent me regarding the date for this] has been a mystery to me - when I bought it, I thought it was a young girl's outfit, as the jacket and top are quite short. However, upon closer examination, I've come up with two plausible explanations: 1) this belonged to a VERY petite, tiny woman or 2) this was a young ladies dress that has been altered to fit as she grew. You decide what you think – but she definitely had a bosom! Made of silk moire taffeta in a rich light brown or deep tan color, it is almost fully lined with glazed and polished cotton. This auction includes a women's wide-necked dress top with trimmed, flared cap sleeves, a jacket with 5 of the 7 original buttons and a bustle skirt which has a hidden pocket on a side seam and has one of the most interesting alterations I have seen. I'm going to describe these items one at a time.

The jacket [photo #3] was made with 7 buttons, 5 of the original buttons are still there, although 3 of those have lost their little center dome. It has two stays on each side in the front only and the sleeves have that elbow-bend shape and end in a velvet-trimmed turned back cuff. This seems to have been mostly hand-sewn, but there is also what I think is an early chain-stitch machine stitching! The side back seams have been taken in a little over an inch and all that extra fabric is still there in the seam allowance. This is in very fine condition, with the exception of the missing buttons, and a slight fraying [but still tight!] of a couple of the beautifully hand-sewn buttonholes.


Measurements taken lying flat, so please double:

Bust: 15"

Waist: 11-1/4"

Shoulders Across Back: 12-1/2"

Neckline opening: 13-3/4"

Sleeve length, underarm to cuff: 13-3/4"

Length: 14"

The dress top [photo #5] has a very wide off-the-shoulder neckline. It is entirely hand-sewn with just the side stays showing the early machine chain stitching. It is lined with a beige glazed cotton. There are 4 deep darts in the front for the tiny wsp-waist silhouette and altogether a total of 7 stays. It fastens in the back with 12 hooks-and-eyes, all present. The short flared cap sleeves are trimmed with a 1-3/8” ribbed velvet trim with a silky fringe.

Top measurements, taken while lying flat, please double:

Bust: 14-1/2”

Waist: 10-1/2”

Wide Neck opening: 16-3/4”

The bustle skirt is pretty interesting – here is where the most inventive alteration can be found. The top of the skirt has an unfinished waistband, measuring 27” total length. Most of it is sewn to the skirt save the last 5” at the opening and there is no fastener. The top of the actual skirt has pieces of fabric which have been meticulously taken apart at the seams and carefully folded down so that if at some time, the owner wanted to gain another 4 inches in length, it could be done from the top. The skirt has a hidden side pocket and fastens off-center in the front. There is a 12” inner lining of glazed/polished cotton at the lower edge of the skirt and the hem is finished with a cotton banding.

Skirt measurements:

Waist: 27” of waistband to go over a 25 to 25-1/2” waist

Hips: Open

Length: 36-1/2” in front, 39-1/2” in back

Condition is excellent antique/vintage – really pretty phenomenal for 130 years. The armpits of the top have a very slight lightening about ½” wide but no deterioration. The fabric overall is very strong –a couple of small holes in the skirt and there is some discoloration in several spots [lighter, see photo #9] and dirt spots [photo #11].

** "This isn't a question but rather a comment on the date for this outfit. I am a historic costumer and at present have been buried in research for late 1860s and early 1870s dresses.

This outfit I would say is of that period of time - 1865 - 1871. The reason why the bodices seem so short is that the fashion of that time period was a natural straight across the waist style, unlike the earlier style of a deep "V" waist or the later 1870s onwards style of the bodice being fitted over the hips.

The skirt is too short to be for an adult as it is. I wonder if that is an overskirt and the underskirt is missing. The style in the later 60s was for over skirts and underskirts all bustled at the back.

The outfit itself would be known as a "robe a la transformation" as the jacket is a day bodice and the wide necked one is an evening bodice."

Thank you 'myladyswardrobe' for sharing this helpful and valuable information!

From Me:

This isn't as late as the 1870's and I doubt it's much later than the 1865, at all. Although the waist does look short, read the measurements. This was meant for someone petite and most likely a young miss. The fact that the length in the back is a bit longer would mean the elliptical hoop - which appeared in 1863. For something later, you'd expect the super short evening bodices - the ones that practically look Regency in style. So, I'm putting this in the mid 1860's - right towards the end of the American Civil War.

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