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Day dress

  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1870-1873 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Leonard Shields

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This dress was made of a silk dyed purple with aniline dye. The technology of dyeing fabrics was transformed in the mid-1850s when the British chemist William Perkin (1838-1907) discovered that dyes could be extracted from coal tar. These new aniline dyes became very fashionable. The first was ‘Perkin’s mauve’, followed by a variety of shades of purples and magentas, yellows, blues and pinks. These colours were much more intense than any available from the traditional natural dyes.

According to the donor, this dress was worn by his mother on her wedding day. It could have been her 'going away' ensemble, or it could have been the dress she wore for the actual ceremony. Because weddings in those days took place in the mornings, daywear with long sleeves and high necks was the acceptable style. For her wedding a woman often wore a coloured dress that would serve as a ‘best dress’ for years to come.

Physical description

Bodice and skirt with separate (formerly attached) guipure lace collar and cuffs.

The bodice fastens with domed, fabric-covered buttons and has a narrow collar. The sleeves are long and medium-wide with deep pointed cuffs. The basque of the bodice extends to become a knee-length polonaise, draped and trimmed with a bow at the back.

The skirt is gored, pleated and tightly gathered at the back, and is trimmed with matching applied bands. The jacket is lined with beige glazed cotton and boned on the main seams. Inside the jacket there is a hanging loop, and three tapes, possibly for attaching a bustle. The hem is faced with black, stiffened cotton and has a border of purple woollen braid.

The collar and cuffs are made of white "Maltese" guipure lace mounted on purple silk matching the dress fabric, and are original to the dress.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


1870-1873 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Aniline dyed silk, lined with cotton, trimmed with satin and bobbin lace, reinforced with whalebone

Object history note

Worn by the donor's mother on her wedding day; her boots also survive and are numbered T.183&A-1914


Clothing; Ceremonial objects; Women's clothes; Marriage; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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