19th-Century American Dress: Behind the Scenes at The Costume Institute Conservation Laboratory

19th-Century American Dress: Behind the Scenes at The Costume Institute Conservation Laboratory


JESSICA REGAN:
This is an American dress from about 1885. It wasn’t as formal
as an evening dress, a ballgown. Like many
of our 19th century garments, it’s stored flat
in our collection, so we don’t get a clear sense
of the silhouette, but the skirt would have been
worn over a bustle. At this date, the bustle
is at its greatest expanse. It’s almost perpendicular
to the body. In addition, there’s
a little silk pillow that’s filled with down
stitched into the skirt, and this would have given
just a bit of added volume. The bodice would’ve
been worn over a corset, but for a really perfect fit, the bodice is also boned. There is the name and address of the New York dressmaker
Antoinette Grapanche. It is in the late 19th century
that we really start to see designers claiming their work. This would have had
such an extraordinary impact when a woman walked into a room. It’s really sculptural
in its effect.

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