Teal Taffeta Crinoline Ensemble
Brief Item Record
Title: Teal Taffeta Crinoline Ensemble
Date: 1860 (circa)
Description: Sheer dress trimmed with self ruffles. Elbow length sleeves. Ankle length underskirt with back center panel with large horizontal pleats. Shorter overskirt, open at center back to reveal horizontal pleats on underskirt.; teal taffeta ensemble; green crochet covered small novel buttons; also hook/eye closure (both functional); sloping shoulder seams; curved arms; 2 ruffled cuffs (turned up) @ edge of each sleeve; lining = polished cotton? dark tan, course, shiny, tearing like paper in bodice*pocket near CF on R (new waist); 4 self ruffles on skirt; both edges finished w/ lighter green braid trimmatching fichu with self ruffle trim all along outer edge; lighter green circlet covered buttons - not real closure; really hooks/eyes (thread loops); waistband w/ florette of self fabric @ CF; 2 hanging panels in front, 3 in back
Full Item Record
Costume Item Type Metadata
Cataloguer with Date
Center Back Length
Underarm to Waist
The start of the crinoline period came along in the 1850s with the father of French couture, Charles Frederick Worth. Mainly known as the “hoop skirt,” this piece of fashion innovation provided a source of weight relief for women as compared to many layers of starched underskirts, while still retaining the normal dome shape. Initially, the hoop skirt was seen by some as impractical due to its inability of being collapsible. For example, issues with mobility, the ways in which it occupies space--especially for travel--getting in and out of carriages, and even walking through confined spaces such as small doors are just some of the ways that represent the stationary phase of the hoop skirt.
This teal taffeta ensemble was most likely used as a daytime dress due to the construction of the garment which both the skirt & bodice being sewn together at the waist (Tortora, 311). Because the use of the sewing machine in garment construction came to a rise during the 1860s, one may think that this dress is partially machine sewn, however after close investigation one can see that it has been entirely hand sewn. From this method of construction which also includes a variety of ruffles and additional intricate details, it is highly possible that the wearer of this dress could have been a part of upper class society in the late 1850s & 1860s.
In reference to this dress as it is relevant to the style and choice of garments worn in education institutions such as when Vassar was established, I share this quote that was included in a previous exhibit of this ensemble:
“This ensemble appears as a likely compromise to the conditions imposed by the Lady Principal Miss Lyman in her 1867 letter to parents on the subject of their daughters' wardrobes. If it is true that you would not 'wish to find your daughter at evening in the same dress in which she had all day been at work,' (on the first page of the Lyman letter) yet students are asked that 'expensive trimmings should be entirely laid aside,' (second page), then this teal ensemble is a solution that is indeed very plain, yet elegant in its simplicity.
This teal taffeta dress is a great example of the clothing styles which may have been worn by the students of Vassar in the 1860s. As mentioned, its simplicity and elegance speaks to the fashion embraced by the young women of the time.
Tortora, Phyllis G. and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume: a History of Western Dress. New York, Fairchild Publications, 2005. (pp.304-306, 311)
By: Spencer Edmonds '20