This is a most dramatic two-piece Victorian ball gown which was apparently worn by an opera singer! It is made by L & H Nathan and it has been stated that “The Diva” who wore this may have been Rosina Brandram, Principal Contralto for D’Oyly Carte for seventeen years from 1884. Other suggested alternatives as the wearers were Decima Moore or Jessie Bond. The gown was made by the theatrical costumiers for ease of dressing but for maximum impact (in reality it is not that easy to put together!). The bulk of the gown is made from a glorious cream silk satin decorated with golden flowers and olive green foliage. On the skirt there are separate panels of deep cream satin which has been further decorated with wide strips of decorative gold cut braid which has been hand-stitched to the satin. At the hemline of these panels are bands of pinked cream and green fabric. The skirt has its own small attached bustle pad and is trained. The bodice is created from the same patterned satin with panels of the braid down the centre of the front and fastens with hooks and eyes and press studs (it could also possibly have been laced as there are two rows of eyelets). It is further enhanced with a wide collar of fine lace as well as an edging of deep cream chiffon. There are two deep olive green velvet bows – one at the neckline and one at the waist. The sleeves are very full in the style of the 1880s and are of satin gathered into wide gathered chiffon. The bodice is boned and has extra lining patches under the arms and over the bosom and there is a tag stating ‘B17A’ as well as the maker’s label (see image). The skirt is lined and originally there were small extra sections of silk lining, now deteriorated. The condition of the skirt is very good for age but the bodice does have some problems. There are areas of the chiffon and the satin of the sleeves under the arms that are distressed. The lace is in generally good condition. This makes a most fabulous item for display but it would be heavy to wear and would need restoration before attempting to do this. This gown is stated to be from the Burton Court Antique Costume Collection. Please note that any jewellery shown in some of the images is not included. Bodice: Waist 24 ins (61cm), underarm to underarm 18 ins (45.7cm). Skirt: Waist 24 ins (61cm), length at front 40.5 ins (103cm). This item appears in my book, “How the Watch was Worn, A Fashion for 500 Years” on pages 91 and 191.
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