Historic Clothing Collection highlight: 1840s silk fan-front dress

detail of silk fan front dress

by Charity Armstead

1840s Silk Fan-Front Dress

We are currently at work in the historic collection expanding into additional storage space and continuing an inventory of the collection. As we work to digitize all the old paper records from the collection, we are uncovering gorgeous pieces. The oldest piece that we’ve located in the collection so far is this 1840s dress, which was featured in our 2019 Crimes and Fashion exhibit. The dress is in remarkably good shape for its age and is entirely hand-sewn.

This figured silk dress features a fan-front bodice characteristic of the period. The trim on the dress is created through fabric manipulation techniques, using self-fabric; visual texture is created with shirring, gathering and piping (see sleeve close-up). The bodice is lined with cotton and boned for structure, and the gathered skirt was designed to be worn with several petticoats for fullness.

Gift of Bete Todd Wages Advani