March 17, 2018

Extant Garment: 1860s Green Plaid Dress

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  For the day that's all about the wearing of the green, I thought it appropriate to share this emerald, plaid day dress from the Point Park University Collection.

Point Park University Collection - 1860s Green Plaid Dress

If there is anything to be said of Civil War fashions, they sure loved their plaids!  Type "Civil War dresses" into any image search, and dozens of examples will probably appear.  In fact, you might even come across a green plaid dress or two, as there's seemingly no shortage of examples out there.  Here are several that I found:

Hand tinted portrait.
(Image via: Pinterest)

All the Pretty Dresses, one of my favorite resources for discovering extant garments in private collections (usually shared from Ebay, Etsy or other auction sites), had three green plaid dresses:

Green and black plaid silk dress with pagoda sleeves.
(Image via: All the Pretty Dresses)

Two-tone green plaid silk dress with velvet trim.
(Image via: All the Pretty Dresses)

Green, black, white and red plaid silk dress with pagoda sleeves.
(Image via: All the Pretty Dresses)

And yet another sold on Ebay:

Green plaid silk dress with pagoda sleeves.
(Image source: Ebay - travellingbubble)

So, it's no surprise that Point Park had one of their own hidden away...until now!  The following images may be shared and saved for personal reference, but please credit the "Point Park University Collection" - thank you!

1860s Green Plaid Dress 

This gorgeous, green plaid silk dress from the Point Park Collection is from the American Civil War Era.  It was among my favorite discoveries when I was given permission to study and photograph parts of the university's collection (more details here: project background).

Unfolding the dress, front view.

Full length view of the back.

The fabric is a green, grey and black plaid silk taffeta:

The bodice is fully lined with a tan-colored, polished cotton and has a one inch waistband.  It closes with nine 3/4" buttons and corresponding button holes up the front, and two snaps and hooks at the waistband.  The topmost button is missing, and one of buttons applied on top of the trim is decorative, rather than functional.  (A third snap on the inside serves as the closure.)

The front of the bodice closes with nine 3/4" buttons and button holes.

Close up of the center front.

The center back, from neckline to the edge of the waistband, measures 15.5" in length.

Back of the bodice.

The trim is eye-catching and interesting because the black silk bias strips were first machined through the center (to conceal the raw ends), then hand basted to the dress.  Three rows of the black silk trim are applied continuously from front to back, with the bottom edge slightly extending onto the waistband in the back.  

Notice the hand basting and curved, machine stitching details.

The two coat sleeves feature wide bands of pleated black silk to form decorative puffs.  These puffs are banded down by two bias strips - one applied at the top, and other at the bottom - to hide the stitching and raw edges.  Three bias bands at the wrist echo the the trim on the bodice.

Close up of the silk sleeve puff banded down with bias strips.

The sleeve trim echos the bodice and skirt.

In looking at the interior, one of the front darts was opened, and an extra 2" extension was added to both sides of the waistband at the center front.

Interior view of bodice.

Alterations included removing one of the front darts.

The front placket or skirt opening measures 9.5" in length.

The skirt is made from the same plaid silk and fully lined in a forest green polished cotton.  Measuring around 108" in circumference, the skirt is pleated at the front and sides, and gauged only at the center back for 5 inches.  Black wool braid was applied to protect the hem.

The skirt's trim was applied in the same way as on the bodice - machine stitching along the middle of the bias strips and then hand basting on the garment.  The 1/2" bias strips were applied rather unevenly with the average distance between each strip being 1/2", and the average distance between the groups of three being 1.5 inches.

Nine bands of black silk bias trim and wool hem braid applied to the skirt hem.

Note: In looking through the university's acquisition pictures (probably take in the early 2000s), I came the matching bodice with pagoda sleeves!  There may also be a matching ball gown bodice, but, unfortunately, neither were in the box with the dress above:

Green plaid silk bodice with pagoda sleeves.
Photograph by Point Park University.

Please visit the Extant Garments page if you're interested in more collection items, and let me know if you want to see more posts like this in the future! 

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