Highlights of the Museum's Collection

Afternoon or evening dress
Maker unknown
American, 1820s
Mull, cotton
x-1968-434
Collection of the Litchfield Historical Society

Women's clothing of the first quarter of the 19th century transformed ideas of appropriate and fashionable dress. The stiff corsets, structured dresses, and elaborate fabrics of the late 18th century gave way to the draping folds and soft, thin cottons and silks. Women exchanged the exaggerated hips of the earlier style for high waists and long, straight gowns, mimicking the dresses they saw in classical Greek and Roman art. First adopted by the French, this "Empire" style quickly became popular among young women. Older generations felt this style ws too revealing, as the lightweight fabrics hid very few curves.

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