Printed Cotton Dress
Silk Purse

Printed Cotton Dress


Style: Ever-growing sleeves and skirts created the illusion of a smaller waist, now nearly back to its natural level. Low necklines were no longer proper daytime wear.

Wide, embroidered cotton collars were fashionable accessories to cover the neckline and vary the look.  Patterns for embroidered collars and other accessories could be found in ladies’ magazines, but professionally embroidered ones were also imported from England.

Fabric: By the 1820s, roller-printing technology was coming into its own, achieving more colors and larger patterns all the time. Both floral and abstract designs, sometimes combined in the same print, were popular through the twenties and thirties. This dress’s print also shows the beginning of the new printing technique achieving gradually shaded colors (now generally called ombré, or sometimes “fondu” – French for “shaded or “melted”).

Cotton dress, fabric probably imported, sewn in the United States, private collection; embroidered cotton collar, 1820s, 87.32.1, gift of Ada F. Trecartin; straw bonnet with silk chiné taffeta ribbon, 1820s, 2005.11, Friends of the Museum Purchase; gold, enamel, and hair brooch, 1836, 64.172, gift of  Alice E. Calder; silk gauze shawl, 1820-40, 53.93, gift of Mary Augusta Rand.

Silk purse owned by American abolitionist poet Elizabeth Margaret Chandler. Printed silk. Made in England, 1830s.