Anatomy of a 1910 Dress


I found this dress at a flea market last summer (1997). There's no hint on it as to how old exactly it is, but from the way it is made and the cut - pleats forming a V in back and front over a lace décolleté - I assume that it was made around 1910, when dresses of a similar cut were seen relatively often.

There are some hints that it is a wedding dress: the colour (ivory), the expensive material (atlas silk), the spotlessness despite the fair colour, and the fact that the cloth round the armpits is stained and disintegrated as if somebody, like a bride dancing all evening, had perspired quite a lot in it but never cared to wash it afterwards because it had never been worn since.
On the other hand, it is relatively simple in style, and a visitor was so kind as to point out why the above hints don't necessarily mean anything.
File sizes are 11-24K.


the dress, front
half-closed front, revealing the complicated closure
A lace shawl down the front covers the slit that closes the skirt. About 30 cm from the hem, a 15 cm wide ribbon of lace with a silk edge rounds the skirt. The same ribbon, but cut along a scalloped element of the lace pattern, is sewn onto the edges of the sleeves. A kind of lace different from the rest (application on tulle) protrudes from the sleeves.

the dress, back
view of the front
Three pleats edged with lace on one side and a single pleat with a broader rim of lace on the other form a V over a similarly pleat-adorned horizontal patch and lace. The narrow belt reapeats the three pleats. In the lower right corner, you can see the inner side of the belt where the tailor didn't bother to completely cover the stiff material it is mounted on.

view of back
view of inside (44K)
As you can see here, the silk pleats are mounted on a bodice stiffened with whalebone inserted between the two layers of the material, a kind of satin probably made from cotton. There are eleven bones: Along the centre front, along the second front dart, along the side seam (this one in a fabric hose and sewn onto the seam), two along seams in the back, and one in the centreback. The bodice closes with a row of hooks and eyes. Two more hooks for fixing the petticoat(s) sit on the waistband. The row of patent buttons at the lower edge of the picture is the slit of the skirt.

detail of right side, outside
Lower and outer edge of the horizontal patch are sewn onto the bodice. The upper right corner (as seen from above) is stiched to the chiffon lining of the lace décolleté which in turn is sewn on the bodice. The silk is only loosely stiched onto the bodice.

detail of right side, inside
The horizontal patch is made of the same stiff material as the belt. Its outer side, the whole edge of the chiffon piece from where it connects to the bodice up to the collar, and the flower (which sits on the upper cloth) carry snaps.

detail of left side, outside
The edge of the bodice carries the counterparts to the patent buttons on the chiffon. The inner side of the first (here: left) pleat has two patent buttons to meet those of the horizontal patch. The two buttons at the lower edge of the picture serve to close the skirt slit, which is off the middle on this side.

detail of lace décolleté
The collar is rimmed with silver embroidery now stained black. The right edge is obviously chinoiserie, displaying the chinese character che (Japanese: sha, kuruma).

detail of seams and whalebone
A side seam cleaned up with ribbon, and a back seam. One bone is fixed on the seam with a fan (there is a metal-reinforced hole for it), the other inserted in between the two layers of the bodice. The waistband is fixed on top of that with cross stitches.

detail of hem
Above, the inner side with a diagonal width of the top fabric sewn on to stiffen and clean up the hem. Below, the outer side. Brush braid protects the fine material from wear.


waist 70 cm
breast 92 cm
hip 110 cm
shoulder width 11.5 cm
back width 31 cm
neck->waist 35 cm
shoulder->breast 24 cm
neck width 40 cm
skirt length 100 cm



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