Like a ray of sunshine, this butter-yellow dress will brighten the day of any Jeune Fille. Circa 1860, it is made of high-quality pale golden yellow silk, and trimmed with lush cream fringe, lace and braid. The inside of the bodice is lined with fine silk buckram. The hem of the skirt is lined with a wide band of muslin, and a secondary, lightly flounced, underskirt with a pinked edge is made of the same yellow silk. The back closes with three brass hooks and corresponding worked loops. The waist is piped with yellow silk. The bodice features a pair of wide bretelles which hide the short sleeves beneath them. The gown is in very nice shape (unstained) and appears to never have been worn. There is a small 1/2" split to the silk on the skirt on one side just above the fringe trimming, and just the slightest weakness to the silk along the two side fold lines of the silk skirt - no doubt where it was laid flat and stored for over a century!
The dress measures 14" long (35.5 cm) long overall, with a shoulder width of 4 1/2" (11.5 cm), a skirt length of 9 1/2" (24 cm) and a waist size of 6". Do note the small waist size, as it cannot be enlarged. You can see in my photos that I was not able to hook the waist closed on my dress mannequin. I believe that this dress would look best worn by a fashion doll who stands 18" (46 cm) tall with a small waist - probably one with a leather body.
*Notes for the curious Student of doll fashions.* How can a collector determine if a piece of clothing is period or a reproduction? Well, a reputable modern seamstress will label her work, but, naturally, that does not always happen. With a lack of evidence to the contrary, how can one decide if a doll garment is truly antique? It might seem a cop-out to say that one relies on a gut feeling, but a collector's experience with authentic period garments does play a big part in determining authenticity. The type of materials chosen, the trimmings, closures and methods of sewing all tell a tale. Some materials are virtually impossible to find today for modern seamstresses - especially those who work exclusively with antique materials. The wear on the fabrics and trims also belie their age and whether they have been sewn together in this particular garment for a long period of time. When looking at French-made garments of the late 19th century, certain "seamstress tricks" also come into play. For instance, modern sewers will almost always gather too much fabric into a flounce on a skirt. The 19th century seamstress was sparing with her expensive materials, and used them judiciously. Plus, the flounce just looks more natural and a true miniature of a human size dress with less fullness in the trimmings. Another thing to keep in mind is that, with the exception of so-called 'factory' garments sewn by highly skilled cottage seamstresses for the finest quality doll boutiques like Huret, Rohmer and other ateliers, most home-sewed garments will display a certain expediency in manufacture. Interestingly, white cotton undergarments often show the most exacting of sewing techniques. I chalk this up to the training most young girls have in the art of fine hand sewing from an early age, and also the expectation that these doll undergarments would be washed along with the rest of the family's laundry, and would have to stand up to the hard use. In contrast, the finer outerwear would likely be made from scraps from the making of the family's own garments, perhaps by the mother, household seamstress, or even the girl herself. These dresses might change in style frequently, be part of a large trousseau of many dresses, or be an item made quickly to please a child. As such, while the "look" of the dress was important - remember this is France, where fashion is EVERYTHING - the method of construction could get away with being rather slap-dash by modern standards. Thus, seams left raw where they wouldn't show, trims basted on, and less than perfect stitching was all considered quite acceptable as long as the right outer appearance was maintained. Therefore, a dress like this one, which is rather casually constructed yet still looks "right", is quite authentic. In fact, such casual sewing techniques while maintaining the right look should be considered one proof of period manufacture by the savvy collector. Yes, this dress does pass the "black light" test as well, to show it is completely constructed of antique materials... a helpful tool for in the collector tool box.