Monday, September 8, 2014

Civil War Dresses - Part 2

Here are the rest of the dresses from the recent Civil War women's clothing exhibit at the Lakes Region Historical Museum in Antioch, Illinois. Several people e-mailed me to ask if these were reproduction dresses. They were NOT. All were authentic period pieces dating from the 1850s - 1870s. 

The dresses were in remarkably good condition, although some were patched in places.   Still . . . . incredibly preserved.

A brilliant purple maternity gown. Love it. 

Purple, along with green, was often considered a "fugitive" color and faded to a soft brown over time, which explains the drab colors you see so often in antique quilts from this era. Do any of you with knowledge of fabric know why this dress would have retained  its color instead of fading as others did? (see below) I think I remember that it was made from wool instead of cotton or silk and I wondered if that had something to do with it, or - perhaps it was because it was so well preserved and kept away from light? I haven't a clue. 

Purple silk fabric faded to a brownish mauve.  

You can see the original brilliant purple color underneath the sleeve.

Another faded purple dress -

Here you can see the original color preserved under the layers of trim.

This one below was probably my favorite dress, made from a lovely gauzy material with several additional layers underneath the dress. What amazed me were the details  - tiny, tiny stitches all by hand; gathered stitches attaching the bodice to the skirt. Delicate, lace-trimmed removable sleeves. What an awful lot of work went into making these gowns.

Notice the tiny blue acorn buttons on the front of the bodice - how sweet.

Ladies boots. Such tiny feet!

Dress shoes

Those removable sleeves again.

Painted glass buttons on this dress front.

You can't see it very well in the photo but the mannequin and the lady in the photo are wearing the same "Medici" belt. 

Was this where Wonder Woman got the idea??

8 by 10 Civil War Photo Print Woman Lovely Dress, Cloak. Medici belt, nice hat

A display case showing a "huswife" needle case carried to war by a Civil War soldier. The note next to it read: 

 "Miss Amy Ingalls of Menominee, Mich, made this needle book just before I left for the war in Aug 1862. Was carried most 3 years. [signed] Homer Stevens"


Ann in PA said...

Kathy, Thank you for sharing this wonderful exhibit. The dresses are amazing.

Granny's Button Box said...

Wonderful again, thank you. My aunt died at the grand old age of 99, when we were clearing her house we found an embroidery with "love to Mary" and "Africa 1943 - 44" on it, we think that her husband embroidered it in WWII. It was in a homemade needle-case with lots of skeins of threads. Your needle case reminded me of it.

Sewing Sue said...

I went to a presentation several years ago in Jonesboro, Georgia, given by a woman who made reproductions of Civil War garments. The consensus was that it took over 40 hours of hand stitching to make one ordinary day dress. Adding lace and trims would add considerable time to the process. We were allowed to view close-up the detailed work that went into finishing seams, tiny pleats in sleeves, it was amazing! It's no wonder that the average woman had a limited wardrobe back then. Thanks for sharing.

Gloria said...

I wonder whether the bright purple gown was dyed with one of the first synthetic dyes, anilne purple, which was discovered in1856 and patented the following yearI think. It was very popular in England at thet time as it was such a strong colour that did not fade as other purple dyes did.

Heartsdesire said...

Thanks for sharing this fabulous exhibition. It's something that I would probably never get to see. I especially like the blue fabric in the dress with the glass buttons.

The Civil War Quilter said...

Oh, Kathleen! I'm so envious! I would love to see these gowns in person, but it's wonderful seeing them on your blog. Thank you for sharing! I also love the gown with the blue acorn buttons best.

quiltdet said...

What a wonderful exhibit! Thank you so much for sharing your pictures!

Donna K. from N. Texas said...

Wonderful dresses. Thanks for sharing them with those of us who don't live near to the museum.

Kaaren said...

Fugitive colours in art media are colors which are based on pigments or dyes which have a short life. They are not lightfast which means they are not permanent.

What this means in practice is that if fugitive colors are used, they will look absolutely fine when the work is created. However, if the work is continuously exposed to light, the color saturation will appear to fade and then eventually the hue will completely disappear. This is as a result of chemical change rather than any bleaching effect of the light.

The purple dress in the exhibit was a maternity dress and because of this was probably worn for only short periods of time and then put away. That is perhaps why it has retained it's color over time.

Awesome exhibit. I am enamored with this period in history.

Anonymous said...

I visit daily your blog. These 2 articles on women's clothes are realy worth reading. I enjoy also the smal quilts you create.
Thank you.
Julienne Paulussen, Antwerp Belgium

Ineke van den Akker said...

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer M said...

Amazing, thank you-thank you for sharing this wonderful exhibit:)!

kathy osterby said...

Kathy thank you so much for this tour! I've started making this period dresses for my American Girl dolls to go with our small quilts. Hopefully I can keep 1 of the dresses to photo with the quilts. Thanks again.

celkalee said...

What a lovely exhibit. I am also fascinated by this era. I cannot imagine wearing clothing like this. So much fabric! So kind of you to share your experience here. Wish I could see it too.

Karen said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing these wonderful pictures. Thank you for sharing them.

Anonymous said...

Would love to see these beauties in person!! Make for a wonderful national museum tour event!

Patty Nordahl said...

Have you read "Mrs. Lincoln's Dress Maker" by Jennifer Chiaverini ? It give wonderful descriptions of how these elaborate dresses we sewn. A terrific account of history, the research was extensive and the writing an enjoyable read.

Lucy said...

What a incredible collection! Thank you for sharing it and especially the dresses in purple, how they faded.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking us with you through the museum.
I also like how the purple dresses faded.
Over the years I think we have lost a little of ourselves and what is really important and what we can live without.


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