Twice-Turned Dresses…

First day in Tombstone, only day as a tourist, the gown's first version. We bought the house the next time we came to town!

First day in Tombstone, only day as a tourist, the gown’s first version. We bought the house the next time we came to town!

“Twice turned” silk 1879 era gown with original figured lace, all from Paris that I made for the one (and only) day I was a tourist in Tombstone fourteen years ago. The silk was completely stained with mine tailings from the street, so it had to be taken apart and turned, then I remade it in the latest style.

Here are a couple of pictures of the process:


Above is a deconstruction shot showing all the fading and dirt that I couldn’t get out. And now:


Above is a reconstruction shot showing WHY I put dirt-colored silk pleats on the hem. Those are removable, by the way. 🙂

“Twice turned dresses” were a common practice in the 19th century, in a time where quality labor was cheap and textiles were expensive…the opposite of today! (One can easily find phrases in diaries like: “They were so poor they wore twice turned dresses”, etc.) Women (or their dressmakers) would pick apart their gowns, clean and press the pieces as best they could, then literally turn them over to expose the other side, flatline them to their foundation layers, and re-construct the gown, either in the same style, or to update their look.

The Dressmaker at Tombstone's #11. Check out the

The Dressmaker at Tombstone’s #11. Check out the “dirt” colored silk at the hem, this was intentional to mask the dirt and rocks that will inevitably trash the hem. Those are removable for cleaning.

My poor skirt had two generations of red silty mine tailings (sticky dust) that simply couldn’t be cleaned…so I did what all of the original ladies in Tombstone did…and turned the silk, et voila…New/Old gown, for 1879! Of course, we use original machines, and since our home in town was actually where one of the town’s original dressmaker/tailors lived and worked…it was a special experience. We like to think she’s still sewing there with me because one is never alone when you’re working at No. 11!


This is the front parlor at #11. I rolled the treadle machine in front of the window, I had a “moment”…it specifically “fell” into place. There were ruts in the original wood floors that EXACTLY matched my treadle irons!! That tells me that the lady who was the town’s dressmaker had her treadle here. I cried. I would love to think she smiles and sews with me.

Leave a Reply