Friday, May 25, 2012

1880-1910? Walking Dress?

I was just gifted another lovely antique dress, and I honestly have no idea what the exact date of it could be.  Best guess is 1880-1910.

The dress has no accompanying information, other than "the Ashville, MA Historic Society didn't want this," and I'm more than delighted to have it!  Again, thank you Suzi!

The silk lining on the front of the jacket is in shreds, but I believe I can stabilize it without too much difficulty.  The top of the skirt is another matter.  I hesitate to even consider touching it, it's in such bad condition.  The bottom of the skirt is in perfect condition; unless you count a bit of drag-dirt as damage & some busted pick-up ties.
(skirt is a stock petticoat that just matched in color, not part of the original outfit!)

This is the front piece, it closes with 5 hooks & eyes at the back of the neck & then fastens on to the front by hooks & loops at the sides.  One side of the bottom front has been either taken out or torn out.  The original folds are still easily visible.

The embroidery is really quite striking & very Art Nouveau. 

It is in excellent condition, no picks, no runs, no damage of any kind.  The satin is in excellent condition.

The sleeves are absolutely lovely, and one of the things that makes me think "walking dress" over Day Dress or any other kind of gown.  It could also be a traveling dress, but as I don't know enough about this era, I really can't say.  Please don't take my word as golden, I'm out of my depth here. 

The right sleeve does have a couple blow-out places along the elbow,  but otherwise both sleeves are in excellent condition, including the underarm areas, both inside & out (amazing, really).


The back of this bodice is striking, and has a multitude of pin-tuck pleats.  I'm really thrilled with how charming the back is.

The entire garment is machine sewn, with a few hand-finished areas, like hooks & eyes.

I have (had) not photographed the skirt on a dummy because the silk is in terrible condition.  The waistband is completely shot and may not be repairable (but is a replacement!  Yay!).  The upper portion of the skirt is blown out in many vertical splits which are repairable with care. 

I believe that the silk was treated with some metallic solution to make it heavier, which was a common practice in the late 1800's & early 1900's, but that makes the silk very, very fragile. 

Suzi & I did put the skirt on one of her dummies, and at that point, I readjusted my estimate of 1910's back to a possible 1880's or mid-1890's.  The skirt appears to be a bell shape, but one that would go over a fairly large bustle & may have had an overskirt to match.  This may not be the case, and I will have to examine it a little more before I reach any definitive conclusions.

 It does have a wonderful silk bow that has frayed in it's tied state, and will remain so for as long as I own it.

I have very little experience with restoration, and so I'm not going to be diving into this project with any kind of urgency.  It's lasted this long, it can wait a few more years until I can either pay a professional or gain the skill necessary to save whatever can be saved. (Yes, it came in a garbage bag - much as all good "finds" do).

Ultimately, I will be making a pattern based off of this outfit, but for now it will get packed away in a nice, acid free box with tissue paper to help protect it.

Here it is just pinned on, but you can get the general idea of what the whole outfit looks like.

I laid the skirt flat so I could see what the general shape is, and it's a bell with a shorter front & longer back, cut in triangular gores, which probably have curved seams (but I haven't measured yet).  The wool is appliqued on & tucked up, and the bottom is quite stable. 

Here you can see the inside, which is interesting in itself.  I like the reinforcement areas of the black linen for the upper decoration.

1 comment:

Green Martha said...

My datation skills are not the most precise for the first decade of the 20th century, but I'd put the dress around 1902, as the shape matches the plates I have from this year. Maybe a tad later, depending on where it's coming from (I've seen french fashion plates appearing 6 months to a year later in the USA). The flare of the skirt and especially lower sleeves, as well as the pigeonning front, is quit echaracteristic of the very early 20th century.