Time for a little Black Magic!
This wonderful black silk dress, c. 1910, is full of magical details. Typical of that time period, there is a complicated fastening system – the under bodice has 12 hooks and eyes with a brocade “stomacher’ that has four snaps, right to left. The outer dress has 4 snaps over to the left shoulder and four snaps on the left side. The collar has four snaps on the left front and the waist sash has three snaps on the left side.
Also typical are the tunic panels over the skirt; these gauzy panels have weights sewn at the hem for proper draping. The fabulous swirl design appliqués ornament the garment. The long sleeves each have nine covered buttons.
This dress was worn by Lucy Robertson Garden (1845-1930). She was born in Charlottesville, VA and married Hugh Richardson Garden of Sumter, SC in 1868.
Large hats in the early 20th century made a bold statement. Perhaps Lucy chose one of these hats (given to us by the same donor) to wear with this dress. The black straw hat is encircled with black silk and plumed with a feather spray. It has a Gimbel Brothers / New York / Philadelphia / Paris label. The very successful Gimbel’s Department Store was founded in 1887 and was hugely popular in the early 20th century.
The other hat worn by Lucy Garden is a black velvet toque with a wide band of iridescent feathers around. On the left is a dramatic swooping bird, this one made of felt with real feathers. It bears a Stern Brothers / Paris / New York label. Stern Brothers was founded in1867 in Buffalo, but soon moved to New York. They were famous for their French fashions and elegant doormen wearing top hats.
Feathers were very fashionable in the early century, so much so that many bird populations were threatened. In fact, it was such a huge problem that it led to the organization of the Audubon and conservation societies, who sought to ban the trade and persuade ladies not to use feathers for fashion.
The third hat, though not originally owned by Lucy Garden, would have been a perfect accompaniment. It too is straw with a band of black netting and abundant black feathers all around. It has a Noble & Lincoln / Fine Millinery / 1635 Chestnut St. / Philadelphia label. The Misses Noble and Lincoln opened their smart millinery shop in 1921 and advertised a “full line of Imported Novelties in Bonnets, Toques, and Hats – Mourning a Specialty.”
To complete our black ensemble is a pair of black satin high button shoes, c. 1916. These were probably worn by the donor, Bernice Dukes Vose (1882-1964) in Rowesville, S.C. They have a D. Armstrong & Co. / Rochester” label. Rochester, New York was one of the country’s leading shoe towns and D. Armstrong & Co. at 115 Exchange Street were “Manufacturers of Women’s Boots and Low Shoes,” from at least 1901 through the 1920s.
You might enjoy reading more about the exploitive millinery trade in the early 20th century at:
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