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Silk taffeta and fringe
American, 1857-1859
Gift of Mrs. Arthur D. Raff, 81.61.1

“[Women] are right to prefer these wide skirts…to the straight tubes which their mothers and grandmothers used to wear. This mass of material forms as it were a pedestal for the bosom and head.” … De La Mode by Theophile Gautier, 1858

This dress is similar to illustrations in women’s magazines of the period. The popularity of these periodicals served to disseminate a fashionable style and to dilute regional differences as woman in California or Iowa could copy the same dress. Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most well known of these early publications, debuted in 1837 and included fashion prints copied from European magazines that could be made by fabric purchased from local dry goods stores to reflect, faithfully or fancifully, the published illustration or written description.

The donor’s great grandmother Ellis Haun (circa 1835-1867) wore this dress in the Midwest. It descended through the family in its westward expansion to the San Diego relatives who donated it.

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