Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1820's Sheer White Dress

From the seller:
This dress is an absolutely amazing find! I purchased it along with other fabulous antique clothing and linens at an estate sale.

This dress is completely handmade and hand-embroidered with bands of handmade lace on the bodice and a wide hand embroidered border on the hem. It is in nearly mint condition. Based on the style, I would place it in the 1820s-1830s.

It is created out of an ultra sheer cotton lawn which was popular at this time. What a change from the heavily boned, restrictive gowns worn right before the turn of the century.

I don't know what was worn under this gown since it is so sheer, but I believe they had undergarments that puffed out the sleeves. Of course they wore corsets and petticoats. I pictured this with stuffing in the sleeves to show how they should look and a petticoat to fluff out the skirt but neither are included in the sale.

There are a few random brown spots which I have not tried to remove, so I'm not sure whether they are permanent or not. There is a small one on the bust area, another at the back near the buttonholes, a darker one inside one of the cuffs and a few on the skirt. All in all they do not detract from its beauty and could probably be removed by an expert in antique textile conservation.

I can't find any tears or holes although the fabric is slightly pulled at a few of the seamlines. It looks as though a half inch section of the lace insert right in the middle of the bodice has also pulled away from the edging, but it, like the other miniscule flaws, are not terribly noticeable and in my opinion do not detract from the beauty of this piece.

I am trying to portray this garment as accurately as possible. If the pictures aren't clear enough for you, please post your questions and I will try to answer them.

The wide embroidery embellishing the hem was done on a separate piece of fabric and then sewn onto the hem, giving it a bit more body since the fabric is doubled.

I don't have a mannequin small enough to show how this would have fit, but the dress has a portrait neckline which would have come right to the tip of the shoulder. The tightly pleated cap of the sleeve fell just off the shoulder then ballooning out into the huge gigot or leg of mutton sleeve that came into fashion around the mid 1820s.

There are small round covered buttons on the back and the cuff with handsewn buttonholes.

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 and her embroidery was so meticulous she didn't cause any pulls in the delicate fabric. I hope she was well-paid, although this could have been sewn by the owner. Perhaps for a special occasion like her wedding.

Believe it or not, this dress could actually be worn--not to any crazy mosh pit--rather to a civilized tea party--which is probably where it was worn in its time,but the wearer would have to be pretty small.

The band which fell right under the bust measures 26 inches, the bust would accommodate 34" because of the gathering and the length from the underarm to the floor is 43 inches.

I feel honored to have been able to touch and inspect this historic gown 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:


The dress on the back left side has a lot of very similar elements to this extant one - down to the sawtooth hem edging.