Wednesday, January 28, 2015

1850's Bodice with Detachable Sleeves and Colorful Print

From the seller:

his bodice with detachable sleeves is an absolutely amazing find! I purchased it along with other fabulous antique clothing and linens at an estate sale.

The bodice and sleeves are completely handmade. Unfortunately, the skirt is missing.
Back in the day, people lived by the "waste not, want not" philosophy. Fabric was hard to come by; expensive and scarce if purchased, and amazingly labor intensive to fabricate oneself. Therefore, every shred was used and reused.

Gowns that were no longer in style were redesigned. If they were outgrown, they were altered or used for other clothes or quilts. I fear that is what happened to the skirt of this outfit.

Since the wearer of this dress was an incredibly dainty little morsel of femininity, I am showing it on one of my child mannequins. It has the classic design popular in the 1850s and 1860s: sweatheart neckline coming to the point of the shoulders with short sleeves, a basque waistline with a very narrow, deep V in front.

The bodice is lined in cotton, but I'm not sure whether the outer fabric is also cotton or a silk blend. The printing is bright, crisp and clean and the fabric itself is in MINT, PRISTINE condition.

It has hook and eye closures in the back and a dainty little rolled flower design at the back waist. It's fascinating that the long, detachable sleeves were kept safely packed away with the bodice; another example of the philosphy of the time.

Few women had the luxury of a lavish wardrobe and if she were lucky enough to have a special occasion dress, having the option of adding long sleeves made it even more wearable. In the 19th century, "respectable" women did not bare their arms during the day or for non-formal occasions. These sleeves allowed her to wear this special dress during the day for receiving visitors or for going to church.

I custom make wedding gowns so I've done plenty of delicate, tedious sewing, but I bow down to the talents of this seamstress. Some of these stitches are only 1/16" long--not to mention all the tiny, impecabbly done piping that outlines the seams, armholes, waist, and neckline. Whoever created this dress was a highly skilled seamstress.

The condition of the fabric is so pristine, believe it or not, this bodice could actually be worn,but the wearer would have to be about 4'10" tall with a bust measurement of about 32" and a waist of 21".

I feel honored to have been able to touch and inspect this historic garment and if it weren't for taxes and horses, I'd proudly display it in my antique home. This truly belongs in a museum or in the collection of someone who adores antique clothing as much as I do.

From Me:

First, I adore this print for some reason.
Second, it's from the 1850's. The pointed front and the slope of the shoulders are indications of the earlier date. Also, there was a point in the 1850's where the slight V in the front neckline was popular.

Although the heather dress above (I guess you'd call that heather. It's not gray. It's not lavender.) shows a lot more ruffles that are on this bodice, it does show the point in the front, the v-neckline, and the same slope in the shoulders. It's from 1856.

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