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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Fashion, Room 40

Dress

1823-1825 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This black velvet evening dress was worn by Jane Johnstone (1803-1847), niece of William Jardine founder of Hong Kong merchants Jardine, Matheson & Co.

The wide neckline and short sleeves of the dress are typical of fashionable evening wear of the mid 1820s. Although it retains remnants of the high-waisted, neo-classical shape popular at the beginning of the century, its construction shows the move towards the lower waists and fuller skirts of the 1850s. The use of velvet demonstrates the trend for more sumptuous fabrics after the dominance of cotton and muslin in the previous two decades.

The death of Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV, in childbirth in 1817 plunged the whole country into mourning and set the high standards for mourning dress of this period. Fabrics such as silk and velvet were too shiny to be worn for the first stages of mourning, however, official mourning guidelines issued by the Lord Chamberlain decreed that black velvets and silks were permissible in the third and final stage. This dress would have been worn with an evening turban, long gloves and a pelisse cloak, often lined with chinchilla fur. It is likely that it was a gift from William Jardine and was worn when mourning the death of Jane Johnstone's grandmother, Elizabeth Johnstone who died in 1825.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silk velvet, decorated with silk satin piping and appliqué
Brief Description
Dress, black silk velvet with silk satin piping and appliqué at hem, believed to have been worn by Jane Johnstone (1803-1847), made 1823-1825.
Physical Description
Formal mourning dress of black velvet and grey silk satin decorated with satin piping and appliqué. The dress is full length and has a wide, shallow neckline outlined with grey satin piping. It is lined with cream silk in the bodice and black silk grosgrain in the skirt. The short puff sleeves are decorated with an appliquéd satin motif stemming from the shoulder seams and are finished with the same satin piping. The waist is high but falls a good 5-10cm under the bust. Decorative lines of satin appliqué stem from the waistline to the neck and shoulder seams on the front of the dress and two lines of piping form a V shape from the waist to the shoulder seams on the back of the dress. The dress fastens at the back from the waist to the neck with seven hooks and eyes and a drawstring at the neck. The skirt is gored with a circumference of 220cm around the hem and is gathered slightly at the waist. The hem of the skirt is appliquéd with a wide band of an overlapping, simplified floral motif in grey silk satin, underlined with a band of satin piping.
Dimensions
  • Back of neck to hem length: 125cm
  • Inside waist width: 65cm
  • Around hem circumference: 220cm
  • Of sleeve length: 21.5cm
  • Of sleeve height: 24cm
  • Across neckline width: 32cm
Production typeUnique
Credit line
Given by Amelia McIlroy
Object history
According to family tradition this dress was worn by Jane Johnstone (1803-47) while in mourning for her grandmother who died in 1825.
Production
Attribution note: made for wearer
Summary
This black velvet evening dress was worn by Jane Johnstone (1803-1847), niece of William Jardine founder of Hong Kong merchants Jardine, Matheson & Co.



The wide neckline and short sleeves of the dress are typical of fashionable evening wear of the mid 1820s. Although it retains remnants of the high-waisted, neo-classical shape popular at the beginning of the century, its construction shows the move towards the lower waists and fuller skirts of the 1850s. The use of velvet demonstrates the trend for more sumptuous fabrics after the dominance of cotton and muslin in the previous two decades.



The death of Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV, in childbirth in 1817 plunged the whole country into mourning and set the high standards for mourning dress of this period. Fabrics such as silk and velvet were too shiny to be worn for the first stages of mourning, however, official mourning guidelines issued by the Lord Chamberlain decreed that black velvets and silks were permissible in the third and final stage. This dress would have been worn with an evening turban, long gloves and a pelisse cloak, often lined with chinchilla fur. It is likely that it was a gift from William Jardine and was worn when mourning the death of Jane Johnstone's grandmother, Elizabeth Johnstone who died in 1825.
Collection
Accession Number
T.73-2010

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record createdFebruary 1, 2011
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