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Woman's Dress, 1842–50

Woman's Dress, 1842–50

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According to the family, it is most likely that this dress belonged to Adeline Barr Miller. Adeline was one of four daughters of Oliver Barr and Melinda Griffin. While the parents spent their early years in Pennsylvania, by the 1840s they were living in Aurora, Illinois, where all four daughters were married. The Reverend Oliver Barr was a leading minister in the Christian Church and an early supporter of the founding of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He was killed in a train accident five months before the college opened.
This dress is particularly interesting in its use of the stripes in the fabric to emphasize the long-waisted silhouette fashionable in the period. Because differing fabrics were used for reinforcement and facings (perhaps scraps remaining from other projects), the dress was probably made at home by a member of the family. The seamstress who made the dress was semi-skilled. She knew how to cut the fabric using the design to emphasize the fashionable silhouette. However, the way the fan is controlled at the shoulders is not particularly well done, and the piping at the neck is not done in a standard manner. It may be that someone who was more skilled cut the fabric and someone less skilled sewed the garment.
This one-piece dress is constructed from printed cotton in a floral pattern with stripes of red flowers and brown leaves on a cream ground alternating with red flowers in the center of brown leaves outlined in cream on a brown ground. There is a slightly dropped round neckline in the front and a round neckline in the back of the bodice with bias piping at the neckline. A fan front in the bodice is created using stripes in the fabric vertically with pleats radiating out and releasing near the shoulders and then gathering into the side back shoulder seams. The side front bodice pieces are cut with stripes on the horizontal. The bodice forms a slight “V” waist in front and is straight in the back with piping in the waistline seam. The back of the bodice has one piece on either side of the center back with a center back opening that overlaps slightly to cover a thirteen hook-and-eye closure extending from the neck to the waist. The inside of the opening is reinforced under the hooks-and-eyes with an applied band of cream colored cotton printed in blue and brown. Long, narrow sleeves open at the inside seam at the wrist opening. The skirt section is narrowly pleated to the bodice, and the skirt hem is faced with dark blue cotton with a small white geometric print. The bodice is lined with natural colored cotton.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Dress, 1-Piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Entire Body
Date made
Miller, Adeline Barr
Place Made
probably used in
United States: Illinois, Aurora
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gladys G. Sperry
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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