You better grab a cup of coffee as there is allot of valuable information regarding this fabulous dress! What a wonderful late Victorian Era, calico Prairie style dress. This textile, circa 1890 was actually used as either a morning dress or wrapper and worn as casual attire for outdoors or working inside. What makes this dress so special are the rich dark chocolate brown and buttermilk prints boasting spade shaped leaf clusters with wavy stems and circles formed with tiny dots bordering each side. The feel of the fabric is a little course and has body to it because the fabric does not wrinkle like linen. There are no musty smells or odors to the fabric.
The placket in the front comes down about 22" and does extend about 6" below the two piece waist band. The four buttons however stop at the waist band. The maker chose a fantastic chain or cable cotton design trim for the edge of the ruffled sleeves, the upper bodice (front & back) and the collar as a nice accent. The colors of this trim blend perfectly with the calico and have been executed using tiny stitches onto the dress.
The inside bodice is lined with muslin and appears to be completely hand~stitched, again executing very tiny stitches. There is even a sweet little patch, rectangular in shape just on the opposite side of where the buttons are located hand~stitched onto the muslin. Some tears are visible on the muslin to the right and left side placket, inside area only. Please see image 4 & 5. There are two small wire hooks that close the collar one at the top and also 3" below, just above the first button. The buttons on the bodice may not be original as they are mismatched except for two out of the four.
As to be expected with textiles this olde, there are some color differences throughout the fabric. At the bottom of the dress, (skirt), on the sleeves, and on one of the right side ruffles, there are signs of this color variance. The fabric looks more worn in these places but does not have a sun faded cast to the calico. See image 20.
Most of the dress was fashioned using a Treadle Sewing Machine and the 2" hem may have been created so the dress could be let out for someone taller to wear later, as this was a common practice. The 2" wide waist bands connected on each side of the dress have two button hole closures, one for each piece that meets their counterpart, Mother of Pearl Buttons. One of the left button holes has fraying around the entire edge while the other has less. I tied this band for the image I took as the dress looks nice when the center is gathered.
There are also some little rust spots on the muslin lining of the bodice and some other darker spots on the dress as well, around the size of a piece of rice. These are on the skirt and the lower left sleeve but are hard to see. Five of these spots are also on the back of the dress. Two are just under the collar and the others are in the skirt. The largest spot is about 1 1/4" long and is visible 4" below the trim on the left back side.
There are more than several holes in this piece, some the size of a pin head and others about the size of a pea. The largest hole is on the left cuff but the good news is the fabric has been doubled so you can see the bottom fabric through the hole in the top fabric. Both edges of the sleeves have some fraying and have separated in some areas. Please see image 8. The cuff is pointed in a "V" shape where the button slips through the hole. There are also a couple areas that have been mended near the bottom of the skirt.
It appears that the skirt has two layers of fabric. The first layer 6" High was attached underneath to the existing dress, treadle sewn in white thread. The second layer just below the first was actually gathered on the outside to form a small ruffle. Part of this was treadle sewn and part of the fabric was hand~stitched. A combination of light brown and white thread were used. There is a rip about 2" long just above the hem stitching on the back.
The back of this dress is just enchanting! There are a couple of darts that help streamline the fitted look. The little band holds the gathering neatly in place while making a nice decorative statement to the overall form. Attention to detail was also apparent as the decorative matching trim borders the edge. The right side edge, where this meets the dress, is intact whereas the left side has pulled away from the dress about a half an inch. The trim has also lifted up from the very top edge. There is some minor fraying on the back just below the collar.
Overall condition is very good and this textile has it all~ boasting extraordinary fabric~ down to the romantic Prairie style design. The little ruffled shoulder sleeves and the darling waistband are simply charming. Early dresses are getting harder to find especially with this sought~after color combination. Would look wonderful hanging on your peg rack amongst your other textile collections! Measurements are, 49 1/2" Long by 16" across the shoulder by 13" across the waist but can be extended longer & the sleeve is 24 1/2" from shoulder to cuff edge. Enjoy! ~Freight (Priority Mail) & Insurance included~ within the continental U.S.