Day dress of moiré silk, about 1858. Museum no. T.90&A-1964

Day dress of moiré silk, about 1858. Museum no. T.90&A-1964

Day dress (bodice and skirt)
Designer unknown
About 1858
Great Britain
Moiré silk trimmed with chenille and lined with silk; with metal buttons, and whalebone strips
Museum no. T.90&A-1964
Given by Miss Janet Manley

This eye-catching day dress formed part of the trousseau belonging to Miss Janet Gilbert. It is beautifully constructed in the latest style as would befit a young fashionable woman, although its pristine condition suggests it might not have been worn. Made of moiré silk, it has a lustrous rippled sheen accentuated by the rich Prussian blue dye, applied chenille flowers and sparkling metal buttons. Box pleated trimmings stand out in relief along the bottom edge and seams of the wide pagoda sleeves, emphasising their width.  Had Miss Gilbert worn this dress, white 'engageantes', or undersleeves tacked to the armholes would have covered her lower arms and a lace collar might have decorated the neckline.

Graceful movements and a perfect silhouette were promoted by the introduction of spring-steeled hooped petticoats in 1856, often referred to as crinolines. Although frequently ridiculed in the press for their cage-like structure and size, they were also hailed as a blessing. Effective, lightweight, economical and comfortable, they ensured women could wear dresses like this one without having to contend with layers of hot and heavy petticoats.