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Three-piece promenade ensemblePost Civil War dress



#c183 $750

Three-piece promenade ensemble, c.1867

The sewing machine, invented in the 1830s, came into widespread use in America during the Civil War (1861-1865.) In the late 1860s, home seamstresses still sewed clothing mostly by hand. Our promenade ensemble is an exemplar of expert home sewing.

The outfit consists of a sepia brown velvet bodice and underskirt together with contrasting copper brown faille overskirt. The overskirt is trimmed with bands of matching sepia brown velvet. The bodice is trimmed with contrasting faille. The bodice and overskirt have additional trim of copper brown fringe.

The bodice is lined with heavy sandy brown cotton twill and closes in front with hooks. The underskirt has a wide hem facing of brown glazed cotton.

The top of the underskirt is of brown cotton and has tiny cartridge pleats in back. Indeed, the smallest detail of design execution is a precious thing, exemplifying the special excellence of the whole.

The pulled-back skirt construction anticipates bustle styles of the 1870s. Inside ties hold the shape. The faille overskirt is lined in back with brown glazed cotton. What a charming symphony in three shades of neighborly browns!

This ensemble connotes the refined gentility of a socially prominent woman. In the 1860s, it was the custom for upper middle class couples to take an after-dinner or Sunday promenade, during which they exchanged a few words with friends.

More socially impressive than conversation was the wife's elegant promenade ensemble of luxe brown velvet. Even the tiny interior cartridge pleats (never seen by the viewer) at the waist at the back of the underskirt were subtle testimony to the elegance of the costume.

Such details of execution are like parts of an orchestra score to which the composer has devoted infinite labor, although they may never reach the ears of the public.

The condition is very good. There is general wear, particularly on the skirt waistbands. These imperfections—not apparent when displayed—are reflected in the price.

The bodice measures: 36" bust; 30" waist; and 22" from shoulder to front hem, including the fringe.
The skirts measure: 30" waist; 25" front overskirt length, including the fringe; and 41" front underskirt length.

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