18th century clothes, 18th century clothing, alterations, Clothing, dress, fashion, Global Encounters, John Brown House Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Research, Rhode Island, Rhode Island Historical Society, style
I’ve fallen behind again, as I spent considerable early morning time this past week working on a short presentation for a program in Worcester this past weekend. If you are among the people who do not wake at 4:00 AM panicking about the organization of your thoughts, or whom, exactly, might have worn a heavily-remade bodice, you are lucky indeed.
But I managed to present without falling all over myself, putting out someone’s eye, or causing mayhem and self-embarassment, so, phew! (I do this so much less often than I used to that my anticipatory anxiety is always high.)
Above you can see one of the items I talked about: a re-worked bodice from the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society.
I think, once upon a time, that bodice was part of a pieced-back closed-front gown with a matching petticoat.
And then I think someone decided (quite rightly) that the style was too passé for 1795, and altered the gown significantly.
Not only is there evidence of new sleeves being fitted into the gown’s armscyes, we have the sleeves-that-used-to-be. And my dear! No one is wearing sleeves like that this season!
I find these garments in limbo really fascinating. Was that bodice finished and worn with a matching petticoat? (Yes, there’s a panel of that left, too; what a lovely hem!)
Who wore the gown? Was the woman who wore it originally the same woman who wore it altered? I can only guess at this point, and may never find the smoking diary or mantua-maker’s bill. The alterations are not as finely done as the original gown, so I think there are two hands at work here– whose were those hands? There’s always more to think about and learn.
In case you’re wondering, thanks to the Met, we can see what the gown probably looked like in its first incarnation, and then what the alterations were meant to achieve. (Link to the gown on the left; link to the gown on the right.)