This tan open-weave linen dress, c. 1884, has a corseted bodice trimmed with maroon velvet and metallic beading; the brown faille skirt is draped with matching linen forming a bustle in back and apron drapery in front. It was worn by Susan Wright (c. 1859-1937) of Georgia who married DeForest Allgood in 1884. The dressmaker’s label inside is from Mrs. E. Donigan / 109 W. 12th St., N.Y. It was given to the Museum by Miss J. H. Wilson in 1975.
Susan was the daughter of wealthy slave broker William Wright of Savannah who married Susan Bogardus in 1845. Susan’s grandfather, Henry S. Bogardus was a cabinetmaker in Savannah who was born in New York.
After a brief disappearance around 1880, the bustle reappeared with astonishing proportions. Producing almost a shelf in back, the skirt was also ornamented with abundant drapery, often asymmetrical. And, while the earlier inner ties and skirt construction that forced tiny, mincing steps disappeared by the mid-1880s, the fabrics, trims and bustles were often so heavy that they hampered mobility. This dress is amazing, with its rich colors and elaborate beading. It was likely quite a fashionable autumn walking or visiting garment.
INFORMATION REQUEST: Are you familiar with Mrs. E. Donigan? If so, we would love to learn more about this designer. Please share!
Come visit this dress in person! It is currently on exhibit in our Seasonal Fashion: Autumn in Charleston.
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 new 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