Evening dress

Date: 1877–82

Culture: European

Medium: silk

Dimensions: Length at CB (a): 82 in. (208.3 cm)
Length at CF (a): 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm)
Width at Bottom (a): 127 1/2 in. (323.9 cm)
Length at CF (b): 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Aline Bernstein, 1937

Accession Number: C.I.37.61.1a, b


With mechanized sewing becoming ubiquitous, as well as the Victorian penchant for machine-made trimmings such as braid, lace, and ribbons, women's dress became the foundation on which elaborate surface decoration was applied. This example was seen in its day as à la sirène, or mermaidlike, in outline. Its extended bodice, called the "cuirasse" since it encased a woman's torso like body armor, was the clearest nineteenth-century expression of the hourglass shape.