Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

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Dress, 1-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*039253

Date: 1837-01-13

Maker: Unknown


Gold satin woven in branch and floral design; bodice V at center front waist; applied band at waist edge with piping at either side; center front seam partially boned; curved dart on either side of center front seam; side seams; wide neck, slightly V in front; applied band with one row of piping trims neckline; wide pleated band of satin extends from shoulder/armscye (armhole) seams to center front where trimmed with self tab with double row of piping; small rosette of gold silk at center front neckline; curved side back seam covered with double row of piping; center back opening closed with metal hooks and eyes; applied rosette at center back waist; full sleeves, with fullness controlled at top by means of small, stitched-down pleats covered by gold silk tabs; fullness released at elbow; fullness at lower arm controlled by stitched-down pleats; wrist opening slit at inner wrists, trimmed with band of silk with double row of piping on either side; bodice and sleeve lined with white linen; skirt flat at center front, pleated at sides and gauged at center back; skirt sewn straight across inside of front bodice and attached to bodice waist at back; raw edge at hem (original facing missing).


Mrs. G. C. Robbins wore this "second day" dress on January 13, 1837. She had married patent attorney G. C. Robbins the day before in Washington, D.C. We do not know much about the "second day" tradition, but it appears to have been more prevalent in the South. We believe that in this region a special dress was made for wear the day after the wedding. Most likely it was a day that the newlyweds could receive visitors. In some instances, there are no wedding photographs, but pictures were taken of the bride in her second day dress. If you know more about this tradition, we would like to hear about it.

This dress is typical of dresses of the mid-1830s. What is unique about styles of this period is the fullness in the sleeves located at the elbow. Just prior to that, sleeves had been very full at the top (sometimes called leg of mutton sleeves). In these dresses of the mid-1830s, it almost appears as if the fullness has slid down the sleeves. In the case of this dress, the sleeve was constructed to be very full, and then pleats were used to take in the fullness at the shoulder and at the forearm.

The skirt in this dress is not very full. It is likely that a panel was taken out at some later date and the skirt reattached to the bodice. Exhibited in the Hall of American Costume from 1964 to 1973.

Credit: Gift of Mrs. E.O. Wagenhorst