Woman's Dress, 1789

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The momentous occasion of George Washington’s inaugural ball in 1789 called for exceptional dresses made from the most sumptuous goods available. This silk gown is believed to have been worn by Mary Livingston Duane to the inaugural ball held in New York City. Her husband, James Duane, was then mayor of New York.
This elegant two-piece dress is a lavender ground brocaded silk with small bunches of multi-colored flowers. The bodice of the overdress has an edge-to-edge closure with elbow length sleeves. The back of the bodice is cut and pleated to the body, which is referred to as the “robe a l’Anglaise” style. The trained skirt section is attached to the bodice from the side fronts across to the back, being pleated at the back. The front opening edges of the skirt section are trimmed with ruchings of self-fabric, lace, and artificial flowers in a sinuous pattern. There are slits in the side seams of the skirt section for pulling the fabric up and through to create an alternate style called “Polanoise”. The matching petticoat is pleated onto a narrow tape with side openings. The exposed lower front is trimmed with a band of scalloped pleating, lace, and artificial flower trim.
Although the current style of this dress dates from 1789, the fabric dates between 1765 and 1766. The neck handkerchief, bow, and cuffs depicted in the photographs are reproductions.
Currently not on view
Date made
Duane, Mary Livingston
Place Made
used in
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Alfred Duane Pell
related event
Presidential Inauguration of 1789
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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