White cotton organdy
L. (a) 72 in. (182.9 cm), L. (b) 44 in. (111.8 cm), L. (c) 25 in. (63.5 cm), L. (d) 49 in. (124.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. James Sullivan, in memory of Mrs. Luman Reed, 1926 (26.250.2a–e)
A sloping, triangulated shoulder line that visually lengthened the neck was prized through much of the nineteenth century. This ideal of beauty was reflected in the bodice details of formal gowns of the 1860s, which were typically characterized by an off-the-shoulder, bateau neckline. Because the shoulders were exposed, corsets were either strapless or designed with lowered and splayed straps. The wide, bell-shaped silhouette of the skirt in this period was made possible by the innovation, a decade earlier, of the crinoline hoop. By the mid-1860s, these increasingly wider hoops were able to support skirts of the most extreme amplitude.