Form and Fashion
About 1854-1855, 19th century
Wool mousseline de laine, cotton lining, bone
Gift of Mrs. Raymond Caron.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Dress (84)
The expanding skirt of the fifties is given buoyancy by flounces which also accentuate the breadth of the silhouette. The pointed basqued collarless bodice features a fringed and flounce three-pointed pagoda sleeve embellished by a band of fabric printed à disposition. A yoke is suggested by a V in the front and back, created by a band of the fabric embellished with more material à disposition, the whole trimmed with matching fringe. The edge of the basque is ornamented in a similar manner. The front closure has six small fabric-covered buttons trimmed with fringe. Three wide flounce made from fabric also printed à disposition form the skirt. There is a back closure. During the middle of the decade the pagoda sleeve became quite large, and flounces with bold floral designs, such as those featured here, were popular. Later, geometric designs often found favour, and the pagoda sleeve frequently became even wider. There was an overall increase in the circumference of the fashionable skirt in 1855. By 1949 the London journal The World of Fashion had advertised for sale patterns which could be "forwarded to all parts of the Kingdom" : they included those for dresses. And by 1854 Godey's Lady's Book was selling its own patterns and those of Madame Demorest. We also read in the Montreal Transcript ans Commercial Advertiser, dated March 31, 1855, of a Montreal dressmaker, Miss Arthur, who could supply "Paper patterns of every description at very low prices". It is therefore possible that the McCord dress was made using such a device. (Excerpt from: BEAUDOIN-ROSS, Jacqueline. Form and Fashion : Nineteenth-Century Montreal Dress, McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1992, p. 28.)
Keys to History
The expanding skirt of the 1850s is given buoyancy here by flounces, which also accentuate the breadth of the silhouette. The collarless pointed bodice is basqued (extended below the waist) and features a fringed and flounced three-tier pagoda sleeve embellished by a band of border-printed fabric. A band of the same fabric trimmed with matching fringe suggests a yoke at the front and back. The edge of the basque is ornamented in a similar manner. The front closure has six small fabric-covered buttons trimmed with fringe. Three wide flounces of the border-printed fabric form the skirt, which closes at the back.
In the mid-1850s, [object=MP-1992.13.2]pagoda sleeves[/object] became considerably larger, and flounces with bold floral designs like these were popular.
Cut from light blue mousseline de laine woodblock printed with an all-over sprig pattern of pink, brown and blue roses, this dress features trim and flounces border-printed with garlands of roses and fringe of blue and white silk.
By 1849, the London journal The World of Fashion was advertising dress and other patterns for sale, which could be "forwarded to all regions of the Kingdom." And by 1854, Godey's Lady's Book was selling its own patterns as well as those of Madame Demorest. It is possible, therefore, that this dress was made from a paper pattern.
In the later 1850s, geometric designs often found favour, and the pagoda sleeve became even wider. In 1855, there was an overall increase in the circumference of fashionable skirts.
This dress belonged to Harriet Bousfield Molson Clerk. She was the daughter of Martha and Thomas Molson, members of the family that owned the brewery of the same name. Harriet Bousfield married Alexander Clerk in 1858.