In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

1800-1830

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Gown with leaf motif, ca. 1825
Gown with leaf motif, ca. 1825Maine Historical Society

As of 2020, the MHS collection includes no examples of 1820s colored cotton, plain or plaid gowns with the slightly flared, heavily embellished skirts and sleeves seen in fashion plates of the 1820s. Along this vein, however, there is a fine white satin gown with an undulating bias strip trimming the lower skirt, and applied satin leaf shapes adorning puff sleeves. Similar leaf motifs form a rounded puff encircling the upper sleeves of a detailed, very fine quality dress-maker made woven striped pink (now faded) silk dress with a spencer-like (jacket) bodice, an apron front skirt, and sets of flaring double pleats at the back. An applied wide wavy band of satin decorates the hemline.

Sally Holmes was the wife of Senator John Holmes, one of Maine's first senators. Her satin ball gown features the almost natural level waist of the 1820s. The wide waistband and puff sleeve cuffs are trimmed with the fashionable metallic silver embroidery of the day, and an elaborate chenille and metallic silver corsage embellishes the bodice. By the mid-1820s the most significant fashion features were lowered waists, back gathers spreading to the side, widened skirts, and gradually enlarging sleeves, which became known as gigots. Gigot is the French word for a leg of mutton, the shape sleeves resembled. Early gigots are seen on the plain beige silk wedding dress worn by Arcy Cary on September 3, 1829, and on a whitework trimmed cotton dress ca. 1828.