Chest of Clothes, ca. 1860
This is a trunk of dresses from my great-great-grandmother. She brought them from Bermuda when she moved to the States around 1870 or so.
And do you know when she was born?
1839, born in Bermuda. The dresses all got put in a trunk after she moved to the States, and she carted it with her from Nebraska up to Oregon.
Well, what's really fabulous about them is that it's like a little time capsule. Probably late 1860s are what I would date most of the clothes to. You have an extensive collection. Seems like she had a privileged life in Bermuda. There's a lot of printed cottons and printed cotton voiles, which we don't see a lot of. They don't survive as well as a lot of these have survived. The one we have on the mannequin here is a day dress from probably late 1860s, three-piece dress. What's really fascinating about it is the print-- tropical birds and flowers-- and the lace here at the neckline is all handmade lace with a fine silk ribbon underneath. And what's different about this dress from what we would see in an American dress is that there's no boning in the bodice, and I think that's because she lived in a tropical climate, and all the boning was done with the underwear. This would have been the first thing she would have worn when she got up in the morning, a chemise. And then on top of that would have gone a corset, many petticoats and then the top layer was this kind of loose blouse. And I noticed that a lot of her things have a name or signature, and can you tell me her name?
I think It was Eliza M. Tudor Tucker.
Once she came to the States did she have a really privileged life here, do you think?
No, she moved into a sod house in Nebraska and basically had the pioneer life, moving out to Oregon and that sort of thing. So the dresses pretty much just got put away and... and they haven't really been out much since she left Bermuda. My great-aunt used to have them before, and she was very strict. We weren't allowed to go past the first couple of layers, so we really haven't seen what's going on in them.
You've never really looked at the whole contents. Well, what I should also let you know is that to really take care of these things and preserve them for your future generations, I wouldn't store them in a wooden trunk. I would invest in some acid-free boxes and acid-free tissue. You can see there's spotting, and that's caused by acid leaching into the fabrics, and they are in excellent condition. And preserve them. They'll last for many more generations. This dress here, because of its condition-- it's just about perfect-- I would expect this to go at auction for, oh, probably $1,500 at least.
Really? The one dress?
At least. And I would value this dress and everything in the trunk-- you have many other complete outfits and interesting pieces-- about $10,000.
Oh, my gosh. Wow. It's priceless for our family, so that's very... that's very exciting.
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Last Tango in Halifax
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