The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century experienced a revival of Classical styles. Women’s dress was inspired by Greek statuary and the “empire” waist invoked a columnar silhouette. The dresses of the 1820s expanded the form, increasing the volume of skirts and sleeves and by the end of the 1820s and early 1830s the sleeves had ballooned to extremes. Referred to as leg of mutton sleeves, these exaggerated forms reached 3 feet in circumference. Short capes or collars, called pelerines, further accentuated the width of the shoulders giving the illusion of a small waist. The use of exaggerated shoulder width and slim waists resurfaces in the mid-1890s, in the tailored suit of Gilbert Adrian popularized by Joan Crawford in the 1930s and again in the “power suits” for women of the 1980s. As with much of the collection’s earliest pieces, the garment was not worn in San Diego. Rather, the dress descended through the donor’s family as an heirloom, coming to San Diego with the donor’s father, Mr. Aaron Crosley Dickenson, in 1924.
Return to Historic Clothing Collection.