And For Some Fair Weather Fashion…

Auction websites and provide some of the most interesting examples of period garments but they can be aggravatingly lacking in specific details as to provenance and construction. Here’s an interesting day dress from the mid to late 1880s that’s meant for warmer weather that we found in the Augusta Auctions website:

Day Dress, c. 1880s; Augusta Auctions

This dress is constructed from a salmon-colored cotton chambray material for both the under and over-skirts as well as the bodice. White/ivory rick-rack lace in a floral pattern covers the outer sleeves, shoulders, and overskirt, as well as forming two rows of trim on the underskirt. The bodice is a fairly conventional front-buttoning style and has a plain, unadorned collar. Note how the rick rack lace forms a capelet around the shoulders.

In terms of silhouette, this dress definitely belongs sometime in the mid to later 1880s although the lack of defining undergarments hinders a more definite conclusion. However, the gathered train at the waistline would tend to rule out an earlier Mid-Bustle Era style.

Here are a couple of close views of the fashion fabric. The weave pattern is interesting and suggestive of a cotton fabric.

The dress’ color has faded but underneath the button line one can see a darker shade of color- salmon or pink, it can be interpreted either way. Here one can also get a close view of the lace and make out the floral design. Now, a closer view of the fashion  fabric itself:

We had doubts about this fabric being a chambray but this close-up view of the fabric and especially the hole would suggest that the weft fabric has white fibers- the fashion fabric with the hole is part of the overskirt and it appears that this was photographed on the bias. Ultimately, the most striking thing about this dress is that although it’s relatively plain in materials, construction and color; however, it then compensates (or perhaps over-compensates) with a large quantity of lace. Nevertheless, this dress fills a mid-range style position that was more towards the low end of middle class.

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