While considering this ensemble from 1880 for inclusion in our Fashion Timeline exhibition we were impressed by the exquisite workmanship inside the bodice. The finishing on the interior is exceptional.
The interior also reveals the woman’s secrets as it is generously padded around the chest. While dress shields from this period are usually soiled and unsightly, these are nearly pristine and are carefully attached.
The label in the bodice indicates that it was made by Mrs. E. Donigan of New York. This is not a dressmaker that I was familiar with but her skills are evident in her work.
Unfortunately while the bodice is in excellent condition, the skirt seemed to be missing a layer. Skirts from this period would have abundantly draped sections; however, this skirt seemed to lack its overskirt. We decided not to include this ensemble in the exhibition, but we still wanted to share the exceptional craftsmanship of the bodice.
Postscript: In response to a request for photos of the outside of the bodice, I did a little digging and discovered we have a photograph of the whole ensemble dressed. For some reason the photograph had never been entered into our catalogue and I hadn’t thought to look through our other files.
You can judge for yourself whether you think the skirt is missing something.
Sara Hume, Curator