Cotton roller print child's dress, c.1820
All original and completely hand sewn, this delightful dress with double sleeves came from a coastal Maine estate over 20 years ago. A short puffed sleeve over a long straight sleeve, common in adult women's dresses of the period, is hard to find in a child's dress. The cutting edge style of the dress, probably much like her mother's, shows how a young girl was seen as a "little woman," preparing for a role in society.
The cotton dress is roller printed with a pattern of alternating foliate stripes. The cheerful combination of mustard, turkey red, and ivory is perfect for a little princess. The fullness of the bodice can be adjusted with cords inserted into casings. This feature also allowed room for the child to grow.
According to Linda Baumgarten in What Clothes Reveal, in the second half of the 18th century, children's clothing kept up with—and sometimes led—adult fashion. The silhouette of the 1750s had a natural waistline, cone-shaped torso, and three-quarter-length sleeves. This changed for both women and young girls over the next fifty years. By 1800 children's dresses had short sleeves and the high waistline typical of fashionable clothing in the early 19th century.
Museums place a high value on fine historic children's clothing. At the 9/2003 Stair Galleries auction, a fine child's dress like ours was estimated at $500-$700. It went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $4,600.
The condition is almost excellent. It is structurally sound and just has a faint stain on the front.
It measures: 26"+ chest, 12" sleeve length, and 24" from shoulder to hem.