Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 1-Piece - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Dress, 1-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*257228.001

Date: 1857

Maker: Unknown


Purple, black, and white plaid silk; round neck, slightly dropped in front, edged with piping; center front closure with 11 worked buttonholes on left and purple and white marbled glass buttons set in metal on right; straight waist, edged with piping; two boned darts on either side center front; additional boning at center front opening; bodice front extends into back at shoulders and at sides; back is cut in three pieces-a center back piece and a smaller curved piece on either side; lined with brown cotton; bell sleeves, seamed at gathered band and at gathered bell opening; decorative purple and tan braid applied over seams on sleeves; silk plaid woven ribbon with self-fringe applied to outside sleeve opening; armscye (armhole) piped; skirt flat at front, pleated around sides and gauged at center back; lined with brown cotton; purple wool braid binds hem.


This dress was worn by Aletha Jane (last name unknown) at her marriage to Leonard Washington Collins in South Danville, New Hampshire, in 1857. It is a typical day dress of the period. While white was slowly becoming the color associated with weddings, most wedding dresses in mid-19th-century America were made of colored fabric and were usually worn with a bonnet for the ceremony itself. The bonnet on this mannequin is the one that was worn with the dress for the wedding ceremony in 1857. Exhibited in Smithsonian's America, Chiba, Japan, summer 1994.

Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard D. Collins