Featured Object

In each issue, the bimonthly DAR magazine, American Spirit, highlights an object from the DAR Museum collection in its "National Treasures" feature. These objects, often recent accessions or important pieces in the current exhibit, always have a story to tell about American history.

National Treasures

Dress for the Day

Middle-class American women of the mid-1800s spent mornings in an outfit like this: a fitted dressing gown whose skirt opened over an elaborately decorated petticoat, embroidered “en tablier” (apron style) in a triangular panel at the front, the only place where it would be seen.

While the dressing gown was considered an informal at-home garment, and its wearer might not be as tightly corseted as she would be later in the day, it is by no means loose. Darts and bones in the bodice’s front provide shaping and structure.

Brown and blue was a popular color combination in the 1850s. Ombré, or shaded, silk adds interest to the dressing gown’s blue-and-black silk check. Three decorative “buttons” on the bodice front are made of black silk pleated around a blue pom-pom, with dangling tassels. The skirt’s pockets have matching buttons and tassels.

The dome-shaped skirt is knife-pleated into a one-inch waistband of brown taffeta, which is also used in ruched trim throughout the gown. The ruching is designed to give an illusion of a small waist by curving down from the arms and narrowing toward the waist, and then widening from the waist to the hem.

Additional ruching trims the hem, pockets and the wide “pagoda” sleeves popular in the 1850s. The neckline, back bodice seams and even the skirt’s seams between panels are piped with brown taffeta. Although the sewing machine was coming into use at the time this gown was made, the dress was entirely hand-sewn.

Volume 144, Number 2, March/April 2010, Page 16
Photography by Mark Gulezian/Quicksilver

More National Treasures

Sitting Pretty

To the Rescue

Strange Brew

Tayloe Family Ties

Ornamental Trio

Reviving the Stone

A Record to Remember

Strong Set

Fashion Flashback

Let's Go Ride a Bike


Isn't It Romantic

A Rockin' Good Toy

The Mystery of Mother and Child

Keep Cool

Dress for the Ages

Historical Register

Banjo Time

Getting Warmer

Virginia Map Quest

Serve It Up

Greatest Toy on Earth

Boston Uncommon

A Teapot to Revere

Seats of Honor

Birthday Threads


Play On

Top Drawer

Burning Bright

Seated in Revolution

Something to Crow About

Sister Stitch

Tea Time

Capturing Cherubs

A Link to the Past

Brushes with Fame

Something Borrowed

Supper Is Served

Stately Seats

Heirloom High Chest

Making Beautiful Music

Forged From Fire

For Madame's Trousseau

Let It Out

Heavenly Harmonies

Priceless Pooch

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