Dress of green taffeta, ca. 1864

During the second half of the nineteenth century, most women’s dresses were actually composed of a separate skirt and bodice. Generally the waist of the bodice would conceal the waistband of the skirt.

The brown cotton underlining of this bodice provides a beautiful contrast to the green silk taffeta of the outer fabric. The taffeta and cotton layers were cut and sewed as one piece. When the seams were opened, the edge of the taffeta was turned under and finished. The boning was cased in the brown cotton and attached to the inside of the seams.

The skirts by the 1860s were enormous and supported with a steel cage crinoline. In order to maintain body in the bottom edge of the skirt which extended below the bottom hoop of the crinoline, a stiff facing fabric of polished cotton. This skirt actually has two different layers of polished cotton at the hem, with the brown layer extended over a foot from the hem. The hem itself is protected with a braided edge.

  1. Dress of green taffeta with appliqué bows
    Probably American, ca. 1864
    Green silk taffeta, black velvet appliqués with steel beads, polished cotton lining, baleen (whalebone)
    Silverman/Rodgers Collection, KSUM 1983.1.105 ab

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One thought on “Dress of green taffeta, ca. 1864

  1. I have to question some of the sweeping statements in the description for this garment. While longer bodices over separate skirts did become very common if not typical starting in the 1870s, separate skirts and bodices were most definitely the exception in the 1850s through most if not all of the 1860s. This late 1860s dress (flat front skirts with gauged backs date to 1866 or later) is a high fashion example of the coming styles. The earlier exceptions would be the occasional basque bodice and skirt that were occasionally worn for a time in the 1850s then again in the 1860s and returning in the 1870s, each time with subtle changes to suit the tastes of the times.
    Another comment I question is referring to the thin polished cotton hem facing as ‘stiff’. While there are very rare, formal silk satin wedding dresses with horsehair interfacings under the polished cotton hem facings, they too are exceptions. As a side note, silk and wool dresses generally were lined with polished cotton as they were not washed. Cotton dresses were lined with plain cotton so both dress and lining could be washed.
    Glenna Jo Christen


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