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Dress

1885 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This basqued bodice falls over a cascade of drapery at the back of the skirt to create the fashionable bustled silhouette. The concept of the bustle was not new as devices had been used to thrust out skirts for several hundred years. During the mid-1880s, however, they did reach new proportions in places including Britain and France, jutting out almost at right angles from the back of the skirt. They came in a huge variety of styles, from 'crinolettes' made of steel half-hoops to down-filled pads and wire-mesh structures which folded in on themselves when the wearer sat down.

The use of drapery made dresses look complicated, but they were usually composed of separate pieces arranged onto a foundation skirt. On this dress the pleated ruffles are machine-sewn onto the front panel of the skirt to give the impression of a multi-layered garment. The swathe of fabric at the top of the skirt was known as scarf drapery and it created a simulated overskirt when pulled up and pleated into the side seams. The bodice has been carefully seamed by an unknown dressmaker.

The pattern used on the cotton textile, which was printed in Britain, exemplifies the complex visual references inspiring much European design around this time. The design appears to have been inspired partly by Japanese kamon family crests, which are circular, with stylised natural or geometric shapes inside. Items from Japan displayed at the International Exhibition held in London, England in 1862 hugely impacted late Victorian design, particularly in alternative Aesthetic circles. There are also similarities with sarasa, Indian chintz for the Japanese market on which circles within circles was a recurring theme.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Jacket Bodice
  • Skirt
Materials and techniques
Printed cotton
Brief description
Day dress, cotton jacket bodice and skirt, made in Britain, about 1885, textile featuring circular motifs printed for Edmund Potter & Co., Manchester, England
Physical description
Day dress (bodice and skirt) made of printed cotton stitched onto a cotton foundation skirt. The bodice has long sleeves and a high neck. The skirt features drapery and horizontal trimmings, and was intended to be worn over a bustle. The textile features overlapping circular motifs.
Dimensions
  • Back of the bodice length: 22 3/4in (Note: Measurement taken from acquisition documentation)
Credit line
Given by Agatha Granville
Object history
Registered Papers 1926/2057



In 2021 the textile with overlapping circular motifs used for this dress was matched with one in the Thomas Jefferson University Textile and Costume Collection (Collection ID 1996.23.306, https://library.jefferson.edu/gutman/special_collections/tapestry/swatch.cfm?swatch=1996.23.306). The manufacturer was Edmund Potter & Co., Manchester, England. With thanks to Ann Wilson (Special Collections Technician, Paul J. Gutman Library, Textile and Costume Collection, The Design Center, Thomas Jefferson University, East Falls, United States) for making the V&A aware of this connection.

Summary
This basqued bodice falls over a cascade of drapery at the back of the skirt to create the fashionable bustled silhouette. The concept of the bustle was not new as devices had been used to thrust out skirts for several hundred years. During the mid-1880s, however, they did reach new proportions in places including Britain and France, jutting out almost at right angles from the back of the skirt. They came in a huge variety of styles, from 'crinolettes' made of steel half-hoops to down-filled pads and wire-mesh structures which folded in on themselves when the wearer sat down.



The use of drapery made dresses look complicated, but they were usually composed of separate pieces arranged onto a foundation skirt. On this dress the pleated ruffles are machine-sewn onto the front panel of the skirt to give the impression of a multi-layered garment. The swathe of fabric at the top of the skirt was known as scarf drapery and it created a simulated overskirt when pulled up and pleated into the side seams. The bodice has been carefully seamed by an unknown dressmaker.



The pattern used on the cotton textile, which was printed in Britain, exemplifies the complex visual references inspiring much European design around this time. The design appears to have been inspired partly by Japanese kamon family crests, which are circular, with stylised natural or geometric shapes inside. Items from Japan displayed at the International Exhibition held in London, England in 1862 hugely impacted late Victorian design, particularly in alternative Aesthetic circles. There are also similarities with sarasa, Indian chintz for the Japanese market on which circles within circles was a recurring theme.
Bibliographic reference
Features in Lucy Johnston, Nineteenth-Century Fashion in Detail (Thames & Hudson / V&A)
Collection
Accession number
T.7&A-1926

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Record createdMarch 28, 2006
Record URL
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