Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Shot- Printed Cotton Polonaise Dress

    So very often I show you things that exist at the top end of what gets made in the apparel world.  Partly because those things, if old, are more likely to have been saved carefully, and also because the level of their workmanship, along with the range of materials possible, is so much greater.
    But when I came a cross this charming garment from the 1880s, I knew I had to share it with you, partly because of its simple beauty, and also because it is a window. 
    What we see through that window is a view of how the rest of the female population in the Western world dressed.  This polonaise dress would have belonged to a woman of middle, to lower middle class means.  If she had been middle class, this dress would have been intended for working about the home, when she had no expectation of visitors. If she had been lower middle class this would have been a dress for visiting, shopping, or possibly for church services.  As a lower middle class lady, this might have been her best dress.
    Because of its humble nature, that this dress survives in such condition, in fact, that it survives at all is astonishing.  Such clothes would have been re-made multiple times, and then picked apart when no longer useful as a garment, to use what fabric could be saved for other things.  Enough of that, lets take a look at this sweet thing.
    Made up in two different shades of the same printed cotton, the dress is not only very well constructed, but well balanced in design.  Its a lovely dress, period.
It somewhat follows the Cuirass fashion of the 1880s, when ladies dresses were cut very close to the body from neck to hip, and the skirt kept the slim columnar shape going to the floor.  It shows signs, in the side view especially, of the soon to arrive new iteration of the bustle. The polonaise, or draped over skirt is a reference to the fashions of the later 18th century, when it became fashionable to draw up the over skirt into swags, revealing the highly decorated under skirt.  This polonaise is gently swagged, and has a decoration a slim band of light tobacco brown ribbon and some hand worked crochet lace.   The only other decorative features are the broader, darker ribbon band on the skirt, and the precisely worked rows of box pleats. And finally, a simple line of mother of pearl buttons closes it down the back.  So this lady either had a servant, or possibly she enlisted the help of her child, or husband in dressing.
    I can, in my minds eye, call up a lady wearing this, and see her going about her day in it confident that, though its not the finest of things, it is lovely in its own right, and perfectly appropriate.

1 comment: