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Afternoon dress

Date:
ca. 1865
Culture:
American
Medium:
silk, metal
Dimensions:
Length at CB (a): 20 in. (50.8 cm) Length at CB (b): 56 in. (142.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edward N. Goldstein, 1983
Accession Number:
2009.300.1000a, b
Not on view
The influence that military uniforms played on women's dress during the years of the Civil War is evident here. Women reflected their patriotism readily in their mode of dress to help encourage the soldiers on to victory. The bands ending in rosettes on the skirt are reminiscent of swags and decorations at military ceremonies while the shoulder and sleeve decorations are taken from stripes and epaulets on military jackets.

The female silhouette of the middle of the 19th century consisted of a fitted corseted bodice and wide full skirts. The conical skirts developed between the 1830s, when the high waist of the Empire silhouette was lowered and the skirts became more bell shaped, to the late 1860s, when the fullness of the skirts were pulled to the back and the bustle developed. The flared skirts of the period gradually increased in size throughout and were supported by a number of methods. Originally support came from multiple layers of petticoats which, due to weight and discomfort, were supplanted by underskirts comprised of graduated hoops made from materials such as baleen, cane and metal. The fashions during this time allowed the textiles to stand out because of the vast surface areas of the skirt and a relatively minimal amount of excess trim.
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