Woman's Dress, 1911

Woman's Dress, 1911

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This dress, designed by Jeanne Lanvin, was worn by Marjorie Wilder, who may have been known as Martha as a child. She was born, we believe, in 1891, in Kentucky to Amanda and Wilson Wilder. Information about her life is sketchy, but around 1910 or 1911 she married Edward A. English of Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, that marriage lasted only a short time, as Mr. English died within a few years of their marriage. It was, however, around the time of their marriage that this dress was made. According to the donor, who was an old friend, Mrs. English wore the dress to a garden party at the American Embassy in London in 1911. This corresponds with the 1911 date written on the label. We speculate that the trip to Paris and London may have been a wedding trip for the newlyweds, but to date, we have been unable to find any documentation to confirm this speculation. The style of the dress, with its youthful appearance, would have been appropriate for a new, young bride. Later, Marjorie moved to New York City, where she married James Cunningham and became part of the social set. According to articles in the New York Times, she made several trips to Europe during this marriage. After the marriage ended in divorce, she married a third time in 1943 to I. Henry Walker, who died a few months later. According to the donor, Marjorie died in 1953 in a boating accident.
Jeanne Lanvin was born in Paris, France in 1867. She began her fashion career, which lasted over fifty years, as a milliner, opening her own establishment in Paris in 1889. Her daughter inspired her to branch out into making children's clothing, and she began selling matching mother and daughter garments. As those children became adults, her styles evolved to include wedding and evening gowns that would appeal to youthful women as well as more mature women. Before World War I, Lanvin created her famous "robes des style” which was based on eighteenth-century designs. These full skirted dresses with waists remained popular into the early 1920s. By 1925, she was frequently featured in Vogue with both text and illustrations. She preferred clear, subtle and feminine colors, especially a shade of blue that became known as “Lanvin blue.” The use of cummerbunds and net openings with piping, which were both used in this dress, were indicative of her feminine and youthful designs of the early twentieth century.
This one-piece "robes de style" dress is constructed of green silk taffeta. A cape-like collar of net with a pleated taffeta ruffle applied in a swag pattern with loops of bias piping between ruffles is attached to a low, round neckline edged with narrow bias piping. The bodice is gathered to the waist and the yoke at the front and the back with piping at the lower edge. A center back opening has a hook-and-eye closure at the neck. Barrel shaped buttons, covered with bias piping, extend from part way down the back to just above the waist and from below the waist into the skirt section with bias piping loops on the right side of the back for closure. A cummerbund style waistband is quilted and applied to the dress just above the waist fastening at the center back with three barrel shape buttons and loops. Elbow-length sleeves have fullness at the armholes that is controlled with pleats. Shirring at the elbow of the sleeves is covered with cuffs of the same construction as the collar. The skirt section is gathered at the waist. The lower portion of the skirt is also made of the same construction as the collar. An attached petticoat of white chiffon has a band of green taffeta at the lower portion that is visible beneath the net of the skirt. The dress is unlined, with a wide, heavy grosgrain band attached to the waist on the inside extending above and below the waist. All seams are hand finished. The label, which reads "Jeanne Lanvin Paris" and "Ae 1911," is sewn to the inside of the waistband. The waist measures 26 ½ inches.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Dress, 1-Piece
Object Type
Main Dress
Entire Body
Other Terms
Dress, 1-Piece; Entire Body; Main Dress; Female
Date made
1916 - 1918
Lanvin, Jeanne
Walker, Marjorie Wilder English Cunningham
Lanvin, Jeanne
made in
France: Île-de-France, Paris
France: Île-de-France, Paris
worn in
United Kingdom: England, London
waist: 26 1/2 in; x 67.31 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Mildred S. Ingram
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Costume
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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