Woman’s bodice, short-gown, or bedgown, early 19th century. A utilitarian garment, this indigo blue and natural checked cotton fabric has been pieced from fragments, indicating that it was either for every-day utilitarian wear or from working class clothing. To form the pattern, the sleeves are cut in one piece with the body – a T-shaped pattern, a trait typical for this type of bodice. This example has an attached pair of ties that wrap around high on the body, following the high-waisted styling of the early 19th century.
This type of garment may have been worn informally, before getting properly dressed, or when doing housework. Because it is unfitted, it could be worn without a corset, thus perfect for working-class dress or the childbed (or right after childbirth). It would be worn with a petticoat (or skirt), overlapped in front and pinned or tied. This one has a sewn-on tie. Not surprising for an everyday item like this, little information came with it when it was given to the Museum. When Cora Ginsburg, noted textile dealer and consultant, looked at it in 1980, she felt that it could well have been a slave-worn garment.
The fabric is linen or cotton, or perhaps a blend, with a woven check. Given the date and the color, the blue thread was most likely dyed with indigo.
This short gown is on exhibit in "Indigo: Natural Blue Dye in the Lowcountry" from April 27 - September 2, 2013.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday