1985-Apr-pg29-31_Notes on Yeovil Museum Exhibits. No5

1985-Apr-pg29-31_Notes on Yeovil Museum Exhibits. No5

This article came from the Chronicle published April 1985.  Pages 29 – 31



Author: T. Joan Rendell


This description of items from the Yeovil Museum costume collection relatesto a series of slides which were shown at the second Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Yeovil Museum on November 20th 1984. The slides shown were part of a series taken by Mrs. Marjorie Brooke. The Yeovil Museum Committee owes a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Brooke for all her work in recording a large number of artifacts from all departments.

There are in the Museum at present six eighteenth century dresses dating from 1765-75, one of which has already been described in Chronicle (Vol. 2, No.2, page 22).

(1)  The earliest dress we have dates from about 1750. It is made from a thick corded silk in a beautiful shade of pale blue. The robings or trimmings round the square-backed neck and all down the front opening of the dress are in white silk, hand embroidered with flowers in several shades of blues, greens and white silk threads. The stomacher is white and threaded from side to side with fine white cords. The cuffs at the elbow are wide at the back and pleated across the front. They also are white silk embroidered to match the robings. The petticoat is a deeper shade of blue satin; this is quilted and decorated around the hem with a three inch wide white silk fringe arranged in widely spaced points. The back of the dress is cut in one down to the hem and the pleats sewn down from neck to waistline, from there the skirt hangs free down to the floor.

(2)  The next dress, dating from 1765-1775 is a Watteau sack-back dress and is made in deep cream brocaded silk with a flowing all-over design in pinks, blues and greens. The robings round the neck and all down the front are ruched self material about four inches wide, edged with a cream fancy braid. The sleeves are finished with a two-layered, deep hanging cuff’ in brocade and an inner cuff of the same shape in a fine white embroidered lawn. The same brocade is used to make the petticoat. The back of the dress shows the two doubled and trebled box pleats hanging from neck to hem and continuing into a small train. It is these free falling pleats which give the name ‘sack-back’ to the dress. With it would be worn side paniers to extend the width of the skirt, but these paniers are missing in our dress.

(3)  We have the next a plain striped dress from about 1770 – 1780. This garment is made from brown. and cream narrow striped taffeta. The robings are of ruched. self material about four inches wide with the stripes going the reverse way. This extends to just below the waist in a rounded point. The gathered skirt reaches three quarters of the way round the waist leaving a wide gap in front to display the petticoat which is in dark green and red shot satin. It is beautifully hand quilted in an elaborate floral design and is shown off to perfection under the light-coloured gown. The sleeve finishes at the elbow without cuffs. The back of the bodice is plain and the skirt extends to a small train

(4)  The fourth garment is also a striped one from 1770 1780. It is made of cream and mauve striped silk and is of an interesting cut with a polonaise skirt. It is most probably in its original state, making it a valuable dress for the Yeovil Museum to possess. The bodice fastens down the front with buttons of self material and is trimmed with-curved bands of the same.  The polonaise overskirt is draped over the full, plain underskirt which nearly reaches to the floor all round.

(5)  The last of our eighteenth century dresses, c 1780, has unfortunately been much altered. However, it is made of very beautiful pink flowered brocade. The wide neck is edged: with black lace, probably an addition, but the plain ruched cuffs, about four inches wide, are most likely original. It is worn over a plain deep pink petticoat. The back of the bodice and skirt are plain except for a small pleat down the centre of the skirt which extends to a small train. 

After the dresses of the eighteenth century there is a gap in our collection until the eighteen twenties.

(6)  We will begin the nineteenth century with a dress of 1822 and it is quite clearly a garment belonging to that century. The material is a soft beautifully draped satin, a complete contrast to the stiff, heavy brocades of the last hundred years, which by then were quite out of fashion. The gown is made of a deep midnight blue figured silk with a tiny pattern. The bodice has a gathered cross-over front, from right to left, mounted on a slightly high waist. The long plain sleeves are gathered at the shoulders, and the tight wrist is finished with a narrow band of self material. The skirt is gathered at the waist. Three quarters of the way down the skirt there is a narrow row of cording made with a fairly thick cord. This makes attractive trimming.

(7)  The date of the next gown is in the late eighteen twenties. It is made in a fine figured ‘gauze’ with a narrow satin stripe. It is shown over a white underdress. The narrow I waste band is slightly high and was most probably covered by a sash. The bodice is gathered across horizontally and held by a narrow band from neck to waist. There are short wide puffed sleeves and the full gathered skirt touches the floor all round.

(8)  The eighth garment, a net dress, is of about the same date- as the previous one and the pale eau-de-nile underdress shows through the plain net of the upper part. The simple bodice is trimmed with white silk bands from the shoulders which meet at the centre front and the puffed snort sleeves are decorated with bands and bows of narrow white silk to match. The skirt is gathered at the back only and is lie heavily embroidered in white on the bottom half. The hem is finished with a narrow white wadded silk band.

(9)  The last item is a pelisse dating from about 1820 – 25. It is of embroidered muslin mounted over cream silk. The waist band is still fairly high and the coat is fastened with hooks and handmade eyes all down the front. The bodice has a large flat collar with squared ends edged with a band of taffeta. Three large vertical pleats from the shoulder to the waist trim the front. The narrow sleeves are slightly gathered at the shoulder, the wrist is bound with taffeta and fastened with a row of nine small buttons. Two rows of inch wide silk bands trim the front of the skirt.

The Yeovil Museum costume collection has many more interesting articles but not enough space to display them all at any one time. We have about 50 dresses. We invite all our readers to come and see them on Wednesday afternoons when some of the working party will be there to get any dress you may like to see out of the costume wardrobe.