An incredible paisley wrapper, dating to the 1850s or 60s. This piece would have functioned like a dressing gown — worn in the morning over petticoats while a woman completed her household tasks, hence the reason they’re also referred to as “morning dresses.” This one has no exterior closures, and would have been worn pinned closed. There is a rope tie at the waist, and a whale boned inner bodice that fastens with hook & eyes. It’s not made from a paisley shawl, but rather fabric printed in that fashion. Materials are silk and wool, and it features both hand and machine sewing.
Everyday garments like this rarely survive, especially in such good condition, making this a true collector’s piece, even worthy of a museum.
From “The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, Fashion and Manual of Politeness” by Florence Hartley:
The most suitable dress for breakfast, is a wrapper made to fit the figure loosely, and the material, excepting when the winter weather requires woolen goods, should be of chintz, gingham, brilliante, or muslin. A lady who has children, or one accustomed to perform for herself light household duties, will soon find the advantage of wearing materials that will wash. A large apron of domestic gingham, which can be taken off, if the wearer is called to see unexpected visitors, will protect the front of the dress, and save washing the wrapper too frequently. If a lady's domestic duties require her attention for several hours in the morning, whilst her list of acquaintances is large, and she has frequent morning calls, it is best to dress for callers before breakfast, and wear over this dress a loose sack and skirt of domestic gingham. This, while protecting the dress perfectly, can be taken off at a moment's notice if callers are announced."
"DRESS FOR MORNING VISITS:
A lady should never receive her morning callers in a wrapper, unless they call at an unusually early hour, or some unexpected demand upon her time makes it impossible to change her dress after breakfast. On the other hand, an elaborate costume before dinner is in excessively bad taste. The dress should be made to fit the figure neatly, finished at the throat and wrists by an embroidered collar and cuffs, and, unless there is a necessity for it, in loss of the hair or age, there should be no cap or head dress worn. A wrapper made with handsome trimming, open over a pretty white skirt, may be worn with propriety; but the simple dress worn for breakfast, or in the exercise of domestic duties, is not suitable for the parlor when receiving visits of ceremony in the morning."
FITS LIKE: XS/S
For reference — I’m 5’4” with a 34” bust and 26” waist and this fit me (without fastening the interior bodice) but it was a bit tight through the shoulders. I wouldn’t recommend wearing it if you exceed these measurements because you risk ripping the back and arms.
BUST: up to 34”
WAIST: 24” when interior bodice is fastening, up to about 28” with it unfastened
FLAWS: this wrapper is in IMPECCABLE condition. There’s a moth hole on the front of the right arm. Some discoloration to the interior bodice. A small hole on the right chest. The back of the rope tie has a little worn spot.