In honor of Charleston Fashion Week, we take a look at an interesting, and very fashionable, 1870s dress. This gold silk two-piece dress is embroidered all-over with turquoise stars. Slim-fitting in front, the skirt pulls back to accommodate the popular bustle, dwindling a bit by 1876 after rather extravagant fullness in the earlier ‘70s. Throughout this period, trimmings abounded on dresses, this one having contrasting turquoise collar, puffed oversleeves and wide sashing down the front, culminating with a wide belt and mother-of-pearl buckle. The skirt is ornamented with a wide satin band around the hem and two lines of corded lacing, ending in glorious tassels.

This lovely dress was worn in Charleston by Frances Olmsted Marshall (1845-1929). She was the daughter of Episcopal minister, Aaron F. Olmsted and Caroline C. Cook. Frances married Richard Maynard Marshall of Charleston in 1872 and had five children. The dress came to the Museum from her granddaughter, Alida Dana Canfield Sinkler in 1957.

The dress was given with a second bodice, much plainer but with delightful star covered buttons down the front. Studying this bodice, one sees that the sleeves have been cut off as has the bottom of the bodice, raw edges still showing. The style of this bodice appears to date to the 1860s rather than 1870s – the jewel neckline, the double vertical darts in front and the center front fastening from neck to waist. What if Frances had a much plainer dress in the 1860s, complete with very full skirt (and lots of beautiful starry fabric) and had it remade into a more stylish gown for the 1870s? The sleeves could have been re-used, with any problems or shortness concealed by the blue silk oversleeves, and a new bodice constructed using some of the bountiful skirt fabric. The addition of the dazzling blue silk, lacing and bustle rendered the garment totally new – and in style – years later.

On exhibit in Fashion in Fiction, October 19, 2013 to April 6, 2014

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s 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

Rose silk faille dress, 1870s. Labeled Mme Gabrielle / Robes & Confections / 205 Rue St. Honoré, this elegant creation was designed by one of the premier couturiers of the 1860s and 1870s. The floral embroidery ornaments the bodice and the skirt, with its bustle and train. It was most likely worn by Gertrude Ellen Dupuy (1841-1902) who married Henry Shelton Sanford in 1864, both of wealthy American families. Gertrude was born in Philadelphia; they married in Paris and then lived in Brussels for a time. The dress was given to the museum in 1979 by her granddaughter, Gertrude Sanford Legendre.

A few weeks ago, we shared another Mme Gabrielle dress, also from the 1870s. The one today is perhaps even more luscious, adorned with magnificent floral embroidery. Parisian designers used embroidery ateliers or workshops to complete this kind of work, designed specifically to fit the cut of the gown. The bodice has 3/4 sleeves and a squared neckline, trimmed with white net lace. The buttons are covered to match the dress. It is lined with white silk and has encased stays, silk covered “bust improvers” and an inside waistband that bears the maker’s name and address. The long flowing skirt has a pleated front panel of cream satin; the back fits over a bustle and extends into a fairly long train, reinforced with pleated, stiffened gauze.

This dress came to the museum with a few extra pieces. Two are very obviously belts – one appears to have been cut from another piece that we just can’t figure out. It’s an odd rectangle, but is finished nicely (except for the cut-out) and even has two weights sewn into the hem. Any suggestions? The other piece is large and embroidered – could it be an alternate front skirt panel? Perhaps Mrs. Sanford thought it was too much and switched it out for the pleated satin. Email us at info@charlestonmuseum.org if you have a good idea!

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s 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

Gold silk dress with long pleated skirt and high waist, c. 1820. This simple but elegant dress is a nice transition garment between the neoclassical lines of the early 1800s (think Jane Austen fashion) and the puffy sleeves and billowy skirts of the 1830s.

The slender skirt has three tucks around the bottom hem; the bodice has gathered v-insertions pointing to the still high waist. The sleeves are interesting since they are long and fitted with an additional short, puffed oversleeve or epaulette, gathered with an encased drawstring.

This dress is currently on exhibit at The Charleston Museum in Fashion in Fiction – portraying the styling moving from Jane Austen’s works into Charles Dicken’s novels set in the 1830s. It is new piece in our collection, having been transferred to us from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012. The dress had been given to them by the wife of Charleston-born artist Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1919). He assembled a collection of garments to use as props for his paintings. As one of the most popular and prolific genre artists in the late 19th century, he diligently painted scenes of domestic life, nostalgic and idyllic.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s 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

This sky blue silk faille dress from the early 1870s was designed and labeled by Mme. Gabrielle / Robes & Confections / 205 Rue St. Honoré in Paris. While in her label, “confections” refers to fashion and clothing, the elaborate white lace and frayed silk ruching along with the sweet blue color give this garment the impression of a delicious bon-bon. By the 1870s, the hoop skirt of the 1860s was scooped to the back and became the bustle. A train typically puddled or fishtailed behind the wearer.

We have chosen this dress for our current exhibition, Fashion in Fiction, to represent the high style and couture fashions so beautifully described in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Mme Gabrielle, while not as well-known now, was as respected in her day as Charles Worth and other top Parisian designers. These designers set the style for women in Europe and America to follow. We have another Mme. Gabrielle gown (coming in December!) in the collection that was featured in our exhibit, Charleston Couture in 2012. The gowns were probably worn by Gertrude Ellen Dupuy (1841-1902) who married Henry Shelton Sanford in 1864, both from wealthy American families. Gertrude was born in Philadelphia; they married in Paris and then lived in Brussels for a time. The dresses were given to the museum in 1979 by her granddaughter, Gertrude Sanford Legendre.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s 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

Horseracing in South Carolina has a long and colorful history. The first recorded race was run on February 1, 1734 on a green across from what is now the Charleston Museum. Today’s textile is an exciting part of that past. It is a jockey suit, 1830s or 1840s, made by “plantation tailors” (undoubtedly slaves) for Col. William Alston of Clifton and Fairfield Plantations on the Waccamaw River, in his livery colors.

The silk shirt is hand-sewn of red and dark green stripes, the front opening has red silk-covered buttons and the cuffs on the long sleeves have green silk-covered buttons. It has a stand-up collar and a red silk drawstring around the bottom edge. It is lined with white silk. The white buckskin breeches have a front buttoned fly and a short buckskin tie in back. The waistband has pearl buttons around and there are buttons at the knee along with a tie.

William Alston (1756-1839) of Georgetown owned many plantations in the area, and was a state representative and senator. He successfully raised thoroughbred horses and was a founding member of the South Carolina Jockey Club in the 1780s. In 1792, the club purchased land that became the Washington Race Course (now Hampton Park), the site of an annual race week in February for 70 years.

Apparently horses could be jockeyed by their gentlemen owners, young boys and servants, or slaves. It was not until 1845 that the club dictated a regulation on a specific jockey costume, after the English (silk jacket and cap, buckskin breeches and neat boots) and the need to register their colors before a race. Alston may have elected to have his jockey thus attired even before the mandatory regulation.

Alston’s grandson, J. Motte Alston (1821-1909) wrote in his memoirs a description of the Alston livery: house servants wore dark green broadcloth coats trimmed with silver braid and red facings and green plush trousers. He recalled the green and red coach, driven by Thomas Turner, a slave at Fairfield Plantation. “Thomas Turner was a great favorite, and was indulged and respected. He was my grandfather’s most trusted race-rider – when he owned a number of famous horses… horseracing was confined to gentlemen, and not gamblers, and was a pastime and not a profession. There were Gallatin, Shark, Comet, Black Maria, Symmetry and many others.” He told how in the summer the horse racers met in Virginia and in the winter at Charleston, Columbia, Camden, etc. Perhaps Thomas Turner was the jockey who wore this wonderful outfit, racing around the track at Washington Race Course.

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

Beautifully embroidered with spring flowers, this little silk tobacco pouch probably dates to the early 19th century. Each of the three sides has a different scene: pink and green roses and stems with a caterpillar; red strawberries surrounded by leaves and scroll; and a scroll design with an inscription and the initial “P.” The inscription, “The best wishes of a Friend Attend thee” suggests that it was made as a gift. Fortunately, the recipient never really used it for tobacco or at all since it is in excellent condition.

Each panel measures 5.25” x 9.5”. The stitches are chain, French knot, outline, satin and single done in two-ply silk thread and silk chenille. The top has a drawstring of silk rope with tassels at the ends. There are also tassels attached to the points around the pouch.

This wonderful piece came to the museum from Mr. & Mrs. William Porter Cart in 1955. If you trace back, his maternal great grandfather was William Lamb Porter (1786-1860) who married Ann Saylor (1791-1833) in Charleston on January 17, 1810. It seems possible that the “P” on our bag might be William Lamb Porter, made by and given to him by Ann before they married.

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

This fabulous silk crepe evening gown from 1931 is glamorous and elegant. The supple silk crepe fabric was one of the most popular choices for evening wear – it drapes and clings beautifully. The cowl neck in front is created by soft shoulder pleats and there is a small metal weight encased in silk that hangs about an inch from the center front. The back is cut deeper for maximum visual effect while dancing “cheek to cheek” and the shoulder drape adds a bit of panache. The softly flared skirt has a bias cut peplum and slits around the bottom hem. A narrow silk belt fastens with a beautiful Art Deco buckle of ivory and gemstones. The dress has a side opening that closes with tiny snaps.

This beauty was worn by Ruth Petty Pringle after her marriage to Willis Benton Pipkin in Charleston in 1931. She purchased this dress, along with most of her other trousseau items, in New York. They then lived in Reidsville (near Greensboro), NC. Ruth was born in 1910, the daughter of Ashmead Forrester Pringle and Agnes Petty of 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 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

Embroidered bag, by Mrs. James Burges, c. 1795. The maker was probably Mary Margaret Dennis (born 1779) who married James Burges in 1799. Each side of the bag has delightful floral embroidery in silk thread.

This bag is currently on exhibit in Lowcountry Embroidery.

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

Calhoun Artillery flag, blue silk with silk, chenille and sequin embroidery. The back features a gold crescent with the words “Cresit. Alba” and “Calhoun Artillery.” The unit was raised for service during January 1861; its officers were Captain William Calhoun, 1st Lt. Thomas Wagner, 1st Lt. William Preston and 2nd Lt. S. Seagreaves. They, along with other companies became the First S.C. Artillery Battalion in May 1861.
This flag is on exhibit in The Charleston Museum’s Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War now through October 30, 2011.

Calhoun Artillery flag, blue silk with silk, chenille and sequin embroidery. The back features a gold crescent with the words “Cresit. Alba” and “Calhoun Artillery.” The unit was raised for service during January 1861; its officers were Captain William Calhoun, 1st Lt. Thomas Wagner, 1st Lt. William Preston and 2nd Lt. S. Seagreaves. They, along with other companies became the First S.C. Artillery Battalion in May 1861.

This flag is on exhibit in The Charleston Museum’s Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War now through October 30, 2011.

Mosaic patchwork quilt by Marina Jones Gregg, 1852, Charleston, SC. Made of silk fabrics, cotton batting and silk fringe. The quilt is 103 ½ inches long by 97 ½ inches wide. The hexagon templates are 1 3/8 inch.
This masterpiece is a pattern called Stars and Diamonds. The backing is composed of gold and yellow silks, which were pieced together. The mosaic patchwork is quilted inside each hexagon, 1/8 inch from the seam lines. The navy blue silk border is quilted in cable design; the quilting averages fourteen stitches to the inch. The Charleston Museum also has the brass template Marina used to make the paper templates. Marina Gregg received an award, a silver pitcher, for her efforts on this quilt.  
Marina was born in 1811 to Col. Mathias and Clara Perry Jones. She married William Gregg in 1829. William was a silversmith and jeweler and it is most likely that he made the brass templates for this quilt. The couple lived at 148 Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, then later in Graniteville,  SC, where William became a textile manufacturer. Marina died in 1899 and is buried in Magnolia  Cemetery.  
To learn more about mosaic patchwork quilts and even Marina Gregg, see our publication Mosaic Quilts: Paper Template Piecing in the Lowcountry. The Marina Gregg quilt graces the cover.
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

Mosaic patchwork quilt by Marina Jones Gregg, 1852, Charleston, SC. Made of silk fabrics, cotton batting and silk fringe. The quilt is 103 ½ inches long by 97 ½ inches wide. The hexagon templates are 1 3/8 inch.

This masterpiece is a pattern called Stars and Diamonds. The backing is composed of gold and yellow silks, which were pieced together. The mosaic patchwork is quilted inside each hexagon, 1/8 inch from the seam lines. The navy blue silk border is quilted in cable design; the quilting averages fourteen stitches to the inch. The Charleston Museum also has the brass template Marina used to make the paper templates. Marina Gregg received an award, a silver pitcher, for her efforts on this quilt. 

Marina was born in 1811 to Col. Mathias and Clara Perry Jones. She married William Gregg in 1829. William was a silversmith and jeweler and it is most likely that he made the brass templates for this quilt. The couple lived at 148 Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, then later in Graniteville, SC, where William became a textile manufacturer. Marina died in 1899 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery. 

To learn more about mosaic patchwork quilts and even Marina Gregg, see our publication Mosaic Quilts: Paper Template Piecing in the Lowcountry. The Marina Gregg quilt graces the cover.

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