Thursday, May 5, 2016

One Shot: Dress with Changeable Bodice 1865

   I've never done two One Shot posts in a row.  This object, when it came to my notice, made me stop still.  When we look at something like this we are not simply seeing a garment from another time.  We are getting a window into the way people thought and felt about themselves, and the world they inhabited. We get a glimpse, albeit through our own lens in the 21st century, of the world they themselves existed in. We get a sense, from a remove, of the rules, restrictions, and also allowances that a certain time permitted.
    So, let us look in detail at this dress with two bodices from 1865.
    Made in 1856 in France, this dress is entirely of silk, with some simple netting lace, and narrow guimp to finish the trimmings. Dresses of this sort, with two bodices were quite common.  It was a practical solution, especially considering the amount of space a dress would take up in storage.  A lady could go from day to evening with the same ensemble, and it would take up far less space than two complete dresses.
    The skirt is quite simple, allowing the striped material to do all the design work.  It is as wide as skirts were going to get, by this time. It has already begun to show the backward trend of shape that will lead to the bustle in about 5 years.
    The day bodice has a square neckline trimmed out with solid color pink satin bands that are edged with a slim guimp in pale gold.  The sleeves are in the then fashionable pagoda shape, with a gently gathered arcing cuff.  There is a complimenting gold velvet belt with a bow, to finish the transition between top and bottom.  The dress may have also been worn with what were called mancherons. They were half sleeves that tied at the elbow and fell to the wrist.  They would have been common for day use, especially at home. And the lady could remove them when her friends  came to call.
    The evening bodice is, naturally much more complex in design.  It has a broad shallow oval neckline, and tiny puffed sleeves.  The Large, pointed bertha collar has a silk under layer, topped with netting lace that is held in place by slim bars of pink silk bias trim, and more of the same guimp used on the day bodice.  It also sports a huge decorative bow at the rear waist point, another harbinger of the bustle fashion soon to arrive. 
    The buttons on the day and evening bodices are silk wrapped, with hand done knotwork decoration on them.
    From the type of materials, and the type of decoration in use here, this dress would have been something a woman of better than average means would wear, but certainly not someone of great wealth.  There are certain irregularities of construction in the details that would have been unacceptable at the highest level.  But for a lady of middle means this is splendid.

    So take a good long look through this particular window, and think about what it might have been like in 1865.

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