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Historic Clothing Collection


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Figured silk dress, ca. 1845
Figured silk dress, ca. 1845Maine Historical Society

Silk dresses in subdued colors of plain and woven patterns predominate the 1840s examples. A not very skillfully sewn, gold woven leafy stripe silk dress with an almost-bloused bodice, shallow pointed waist, gathered skirt and long straight sleeves contrasts with a finely dressmaker-made putty colored silk dress from the McMahon family of Falmouth. It features a smart fitted late 1840s boned bodice, pointed waist, and dome shaped skirt. The frilled trimming may be a 1850s update.

Damask dress, ca. 1848
Damask dress, ca. 1848Maine Historical Society

With its pointed waist and piped edge front closure, a white damask dress provides a fine example of the 1840s into 1850s bodice. Elongated, boned, and close fitting, it is perfectly smooth over the chest to waist, an appearance achieved by inserting batting between lining and outer fabric. With layers of heavy quilted petticoats—of which there is a selection in the collection—the attached densely gathered skirt would have filled out into the fashionable dome shape. Skirt circumferences expanded in the 1850s.