Cotton Wedding Dress, ca. 1785
Appraised Value: $6,000 - $8,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:41)
Rugs & Textiles
Textile & Costume
Cora Ginsburg, LLC
GUEST: Well, it's come down through my mother's family, and the bride, Elizabeth Frye, was 16 and she was born in 1770, I believe.
APPRAISER: Right, uh-huh.
GUEST: And apparently she wove the fabric and made her dress.
APPRAISER: It's a typical 18th-century dress, and I don't know whether you know this, but dresses open up the front until the 1820s. And so here we can see here that it opens this way. And there are a lot of reasons for that, but one is that it was easy to nurse, and a dress was very multifunctional and you could get bigger in it.
APPRAISER: And she must have gotten bigger, because the dress has been altered. And there's this strip down here which shows that it was made larger, and then she put a little piece in here, probably so she didn't have to close it so much like that. And these are called "detachable sleeves," and it meant that maybe when it wasn't quite as... as warm, she could have covered her arms. Covered herself. And why don't we look at the back? And this is called a "closed back," because it comes down this way, almost into a point. And very different than contemporary construction is that the sleeves go in very far in the back, which means that the woman couldn't have lifted her arm up more than about to here, so she was limited in her motion. So this was her wedding dress, wasn't it?
GUEST: That's what I understand, yes.
APPRAISER: I think the most interesting thing about it is we think of cotton as an informal fabric, but in the 18th century, it was a very rare fabric and a wonderful fabric to have. And it required a lot of work to wear and own it. It was a dress that was formal when it was worn, but it's very possible that as it became less fashionable, that she wore it informally as well. If you look at the sleeve, you'll notice that it has a lot of yellow spots, and those are really age spots, probably from one of two things. One, that something spilled on it and it's yellowed with age because of the residual dirt that's on it, or because of how it was stored-- in a cardboard box or in a wooden chest-- and these are the oils from that paper. And if you store things in an acid-free environment, then it doesn't take on these spots. This is a condition that can be remedied. It can be cleaned and those acids removed. I think that I would value it, for sale in my gallery, between $6,000 and $8,000.
GUEST: Oh, that's wonderful! And what a surprise.
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