Two Surprise Finds – or, When Costumes aren’t Costumes

As many of you know, Dan and I are finally moving. Since I gave away some furniture before going to NM, we are in need of a dining table and bookshelve. Today we stopped in to a warehouse that had some tables listed on craigslist. Inside we found theater sets and racks of costumes instead. Of course, we had to look.

On those racks I found two dresses that needed to be rescued. One is a brown windowpane plaid wool sheer. The other is a simple cotton.

I took some photos to share then rolled them up for a closer look once we are in our place and I can lay them out with some more light. At that point, I’ll take some measurements. Both dresses are study quality because they are damaged and altered in some ways for theater wear.

Here is a slide show of the brown sheer. You will see, it has some significant fracture points in the bodice and skirt. Looking at the bodice, you can see a dart fractured on the left. On the right the same one was removed. There are two darts remaining. The neckline has a very narrow piping. Notice the net applied, likely, at a later date. The waist is pleated through the sides and front; gauged in the back. The change in the turn-over is very noticable. The sleeve is simple a “look at this sleeve”. I look forward to making more notes on it. The net is the same at the neckline. Looking at the repairs and alterations, we see several theatrical ones including one I need to look closer at in the waist on the back right side. There is a,likely, contemporary gusset under the right arm.

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Here is the cotton dress. This one is either an original or one stallar early reproduction. My ‘iffiness’ is due to a couple features that just aren’t very common in dresses from 1855 to 1865. Maybe these push the dress slightly later time period or maybe it is a costume. The neckline is the big one for me. (of course this is the photo that didn’t come out clear.) The most common neck treatment seen is the narrow piping with self fabric and cord. This has a self fabric strip of fabric that is set on the grain. This brings the neckline slightly higher. The other piece is the closer, actually the top of the closer. This is not a technique I’ve seen before. Two small bits are the piping which is a tad bit thicker than I would expect as well as the lining, which is also a tad heavy. Now, these aspects could just be a utilitarian componant. On the flipside, the aspects that make me think this is an original are the pocket, the deep pocket which is an aspect of mid-nineteenth century dress that moved from a smaller research tid-bit to a wider-known in the past ten years, and the fabric used for the hem backing.

Published in: on November 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Yeah, I’d say those were originals. Merely based on construction techniques and the brass hooks and eyes. The pocket is also a pretty good indication. I have an original silk dress with two pockets. One deep one and one tiny watch pocket in the front where the dog-leg closure meets. Good finds Anna!


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