Overview: Purple ensemble with two bodices, c. 1888. The first bodice, which has a silk velvet overlay on the front of the bodice, appears to have been created in the mid- to late-1880s and is a smaller size than the second one which is simpler and has an asymmetrical closure. The larger bodice appears to have been created later, in the early 1890s.
Construction: Large bodice: The body is navy faille with a repeated velvet pattern. The front of the bodice has waist fisheye dart. The center front closes with buttons and overlaps at the neck 3". The front opening follows along the diagonal meeting the center at the waist. The bodice closes right over left; the buttonholes are hand bound and the buttons covered with navy velvet. The closures stop at the waist which is 7" above the hem. The back is cut in four panels, two for the center back and two on the side back. The bodice flares beyond the waist, more extensively in the back to leave room for the bustle. There is a vent at center back for 7" above the hem. The 2" stand collar is made of navy velvet and meets at center front. It is flat-lined to a stiffened piece of fabric and then lined with purple taffeta. The bodice and the two-piece shaped sleeves are flat-lined to worsted wool and lined with dark brown polished cotton. The cuffs of the sleeves have been lined with 1 1/2" wide strips of purple taffeta. Three velvet covered buttons extend from the cuffs up 3" at the under sleeve seam.
For information about the small bodice: See supplemental pages.
The skirt is made of the same fabric as the two bodices. There are two front panels with four darts, four side panels, and two center back panels. There are two side panels per side to allow for significant shaping for a bustle under-structure. The side front panels have one dart per side. The side back seams are also curved to give more shape. The side back seam is 5" longer than the corresponding back panel side seam, allowing for tucks. There tucks are no longer stitched but there is a remnant of a waistband on the pack panel that indicates it once had met the front waistband. The seam is open for about 9". No closure remains except for a hook on the waistband remnant. The waistband is still on the front waist and is 1 1/4" wide, of coarse black linen. The hem has been shortened by 6 1/2" in the back. The front has been covered with a 1 1/2" wide purple taffeta. A purple 1/2" wide ribbon is tacked to the back side seam 16" below the waist, likely to control the fullness in the back of the skirt.
Trim: The small bodice has braided trim made from cotton thread based around the cuffs and collar edge. The threads are cream and olive. The braid is 1/4" wide and is applied to a 3/4" wide band of cream colored cotton.
Damage: Small bodice: The fabric is in good condition. A 5" piece at the center back hem is missing, perhaps to obtain fabric for the second bodice. See supplemental pages for additional details.
Large bodice: There is minimal damage. The lining has a few worn spots and some of the velvet on the buttons has rubbed off.
Skirt: The fabric itself is in excellent condition. All but a 3" piece of the back waistband is missing and there is only one hook remaining at the back waistband. The fabric at the waist is ripped in in spots.