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Centennial ball gown



#c218 $1,400

Centennial bustle ball gown, c.1876

The American Centennial celebration of 1876 followed the financial panic of 1873. Society sought refuge from financial uncertainty in a new appreciation of older American artifacts, especially clothing. The Centennial fostered a wholesome national pride and a nostalgia for the simplicity, honesty, and heroism of the Colonial past.

President Grant opened the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition on May 10, 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Smithsonian Institution assembled displays of American wildlife and mineral resources. Nearly every nation in the world exhibited at the Expo, later known as the First World's Fair.

Guests at celebration balls wore Colonial attire. Attics were searched for 18th century gowns carefully stored away because the silk was so valuable. Many gowns were remodeled into "something old" and "something new." Our beautiful gown is a fascinating fashion hybrid, representing the best from two historical eras of American costume.

The grand gown is an amalgam of period features: half 18th century and half Victorian bustle gown. The bodice, reconstructed with Victorian boning and a petersham, retains the original sleeves. The petticoat was remade into the bustle shape.

The gown was made from delicate pale peach taffeta hand-embroidered throughout with ivory silk floss medallions. Some of them which were cut out of extra fabric and appliquéd as borders around the neckline and sleeves. This important historical artifact deserves to be featured in a collection.

The condition is very good. In the fabric are a few splits, which are stable. The silk is not shattering. If handled with care, this fine gown will make it to the Tri-Centennial and beyond.

It measures: 32" bust and 23" waist.

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