Woman's Dress, 1750-1780

Woman's Dress, 1750-1780

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Three individual pieces comprise this sacque or sack dress – an opened-front dress with the trademark box-pleats dropping from the back with a matching petticoat and a stomacher. The stomacher is a removable, decorative panel that fills in the v-shaped void that extends from the chest to the waist in the front of a gown. Mrs. Eliza Lucas Pinckney, the original owner, was the wife of Col. Chief Justice Charles Pinckney and the mother of two Revolutionary War veterans who became important early American politicians. According to historical records, the silk for this gown, and two others, was made from silkworms raised on the Pinckney plantation near Charleston, SC.
The practice of sericulture, or the rearing of silkworms, gained renewed interest in the American colonies during the early to mid 18th century. Plantation owners first in Georgia and later South Carolina planted mulberry trees to accommodate the Asian imported silkworms. Sericulture was never profitable enough to overtake cotton as a viable textile crop in the American south. However, Mrs. Pinckney was a trailblazer in colonial agriculture actively supporting the cultivation of both indigo and silk in her region.
The silk thread, produced in Charleston under the supervision of Mrs. Pinckney, was then exported to England to be woven into damask dress fabric in Spitalfields, an area of London renowned for its weaving industry. One dress was said to have been gifted to Princess Augusta, the Dowager Princess of Wales (mother of the future George III) and the other to Lord Chesterfield, a friend of the Colonies.
In the late 1920s, this dress was altered considerably so that it could to be worn as a wedding dress by a member of the Pinckney family.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Dress, 3-Piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Entire Body
Other Terms
Dress, 3-Piece; Entire Body; Main Dress; Female
Date made
1750 - 1780
owned by
Pinckney, Eliza Lucas
Pinckney, Eliza Lucas
place made
United States: South Carolina, Charleston
used in
United States: South Carolina
Physical Description
silk (overall material)
cotton (overall material)
linen (overall material)
stomacher: 12 3/4 in x 9 1/2 in; 32.385 cm x 24.13 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Elizabeth R. Pinckney and Sarah P. Ambler
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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