Wool. It’s a thing. This dress from the Met has many of the markers of everyday fashion– a vernacular form, if you will, of what Deliverance Mapes Waldo is wearing in this portrait
Of course, dating these things is never a science when they don’t come with a clearly labeled tag you can affirm with research. The extant garment first. The sleeves say 1820s, the waistline says 1830s. Could it be 1840s? Perhaps. Without provenance, it’s really hard to know.
Mrs Waldo’s sleeves are clearly 1830s sleeves: full on gigot, sloped shoulder. It’s the contrast between her sleeves and the Met’s dress that makes me question their date (along with the fashion plates we saw yesterday).
Here’s a wool gown from England, land of the fabulous wools.
Here the sleeves are starting to be narrowed at the shoulder, taming the gigot. That places this 1836 or later, which is helpful. The bodice style is still not the pleated or smocked front of the 1840s, so that’s another marker for mid-to-late 1830s.
What will I do? I don’t know. I’ve ordered two patterns (and one for a new chemise, sigh). The Past Patterns Lowell Mill Girl dress appears to make up quite nicely, but I also ordered the Wisconsin Historical Society pattern for comparison. (Hey, when you can’t examine originals, you have to use the patterns.) Fabric is always a question, but if I’m feeling plain wool, there’s always Burnley & Trowbridge’s “Virginia Cloth.” I’ve worked with it before, so I know how it handles, and while the color looks itchy, it’s actually pretty soft.