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Historic Clothing Collection

1910-1920

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Post 1910, further simplification was influenced by the dress reform movement’s revival of the short waist bodice, tubular silhouette (last popular in the early 1800s). Visibly appearing less restrictive than earlier fashions, reform dress was, nevertheless, worn with body shaping corsets. From elegant surviving examples, it appears that stylish women everywhere in Maine, from those in the blueberry territory of downeast Cherryfield, to southern Maine paper and silk manufacturing Westbrook, embraced this fashion.

In 1912, Mabel Haskell, the granddaughter of James Haskell, founder of the Haskell Silk Company (Westbrook) was married in a short waist, tubular skirt dress with an asymmetrical overskirt, tasseled detail, and long train made of Haskell satin. Reportedly made by Martha Riley of Cherryfield, two other slim 1910-1914 fashionable dresses are examples of superior dressmaking. For workmanship and style, they rank among the highlights of the collection.

One is an elegant tubular purple wool challis (lightweight wool), softened with an over-skirt effect, and featuring a satin and net-filled V neckline, edged with silk-gilt floral trim. It includes detachable matching net sleeves, tiny taffeta ruffles on cuffs and edges, and decorative motifs on the skirt. One-piece dresses presented dressmakers like Riley with the challenge of devising concealed hook fastening closures, such as that found in the back of this dress.

Two-piece dress and blouse, ca. 1912
Two-piece dress and blouse, ca. 1912Maine Historical Society

The other Martha Riley example is a cream-colored wool dress with a similarly tubular two-tiered skirt, high waist, and a yoke with standing collar on a detachable under bodice. A delicate pattern worked in small glass beads on the shoulders, round the neck, sleeve edges, and on the skirt's long straight front panel, are suggestive of decorative details seen in some Wiener Werkstätte design and other Viennese reform dress. Perhaps the patterning was inspired by a magazine illustration.