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July 22, 2010

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Neil Fortin

Beautiful Dress! I find it interesting that even day dresses from the 1870's through the 80's still look fancy and luxurious. I'm working on designing a show right now taking place in the 1880's and I'm having trouble finding pictures of regular middle-class day dresses. I always assumed they would look old and worn, but with most of the research I have done it seems that the working/middle class tried to make themselves look as good as possible. Re-making gowns and updating styles seemed to be the norm. Is this true? With the study gown shown above, was this for a middle-class person?

Thanks!

Christina

Neil,

I am Associate Curator of the FIDM Museum and your question just happens to coincide with one of my favorite eras in fashion history! For your 1880s project, I would take a look at "Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900" by Joan Severa. It is packed with great photographs of middle class people, and explains that yes, everyone across the socio-economic board tried to appear as well-kempt and fashionable as possible. Industrialization of the textile industry created affordable materials and ready-made clothes for much of the population in the mid-19th century. And to answer your last question, the study gown in this blog post would have been worn by a middle-class woman. It has a fashionable silhouette, and was likely made by a home dressmaker, perhaps even the wearer herself.

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