Dating an extant natural form gown

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Dating an extant natural form gown

Postby jenlemus » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:49 pm

First time poster, and I hope to tap this extensive body of knowledge here. I recently purchased an item that I'd like to date more conclusively, other than the natural form era. I suppose it is what I get for being a generalist for the various periods…

I lucked into a circa 1880 natural form gown in excellent condition, completely with an intact bodice and skirt. What makes it unusual is the little elbow length cape that was originally tacked down to the shoulders. It's a beige silk blend of some sort and blue silk satin. The colors are particularly brilliant for a gown of this age.

Hopefully this will post from Flickr

<a href="" title="Blue and Beige Silk Dress 003 by bluefalling, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" alt="Blue and Beige Silk Dress 003" /></a>

Here's a direct link: ... 045920252/

My photo stream has about 30 pictures of the construction details and close ups. The skirt is heavily reinforced with cotton hair net and canvas. The orginal buttons are missing.

Can you all help me better pin down the year? My knowledge bottoms out after "between 1876 and 1883" and I've found natural form more difficult to research, particularly in reference to the cape. I can't imagine beige and electric blue silk satin would have made good traveling wear. My gut says this was for a young girl who quickly out grew it, as it is cut for and incredibly petite and short woman and doesn't show much wear. I'm 5' 8", and held up the skirt hits me just higher than mid-calf.
Master Gabber
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Re: Dating an extant natural form gown

Postby diana » Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:11 am

I would venture to say it is year 1880. Heather has a pattern for that 1880 split pannier overskirt.

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Re: Dating an extant natural form gown

Postby Heather » Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:48 am

I would have to agree, 1880-1882. With the cape, it is like a traveling dress, or maybe a promenade dress since it is a light color and somewhat fancy. The cape is protection from the elements for outdoor wear. If you look at fashion plates for this period, you do see quite a few outfits with the cape. With the false hood, it is definitely more an affectation of the style rather than actual outdoor gear.
Ok dug a little bit and looking at the 1882 Butterick catalog, there is one ladies polonaise with a cape, issue date of June 1881. There is a separate cape of this style with an issue date of March 1881. And a girls basque with an issue date of April 1882. These were the non-outerwear garments, but there were of course plenty of cloaks and coats with the short capes attached.

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