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Dear Misty,

I recently found an old dress form in an antique store and although it is not for sale, the store owner kindly let me photograph it. I've uploaded photos to


and wondered if you could take a look at them.

My guess is late Victorian, early Edwardian. I've not seen anything like it on the internet (believe me, I've searched!!!), and would love to have some more info on the dress form shape. I'd like to make a reprodution 1/4 scale copy for my sewing room.

One day

Terri Kelly
Townsville, Australia

Dear Terri:

I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you on your dress form question. I spent quite a lot of time trying to track down the exact date of that dress form. When I looked at your pictures, the image looked very familiar. Somewhere over the years, I saw something that looked just like that. But where? I have seen ones in small historical society collections (where, where where?) and I think someone published a book on period dress forms and mannequins a few years back. Not being able to come up with the details in that direction, I redirected my thoughts.

Are you familiar with the book Decades of Fashion by Harriet Worsley? Most interesting are pages 18, 19 and 20. Pages 18 and 19 are from a photograph dated 1906 from a musical play called the Dairymaids. Very noticeable, is the extreme S-bend shape and on page 20, is a photograph of actress Camille Clifford who was a great beauty at that time and epitomized that look. What strikes me is the fact that before 1906, that extreme S-curve can be enhanced through dressmaking by adding ruffles, lace and other trimmings to the bust and hip area. But in the photos of Clifford and the Dairymaids, their dress is almost sheath-like and the boned corset is really exaggerating the "S curve." More so than any other year. It just makes me wonder if those at the forefront of fashion had to have new dress forms made to accommodate this style when it was most exaggerated. Does this dressform appear well used? Maybe the style at its most extreme was short lived and you had to really cut the dress to that shape and just couldn't "fudge" it with trimmings if you were having something, truly made, in the latest style.

If I find anything else in the future that might be useful to you, I will send it along.

All the best,

Michelle "AskMisty" Oberly has worked for many years in the education and museum fields. For nine years, she was a senior faculty member at Ray College of Design (now the Illinois Institute of Art) teaching fashion history and textiles. She also worked as executive director for the Mt. Prospect Historical Society, Mt. Prospect, Illinois; curator of costumes at Germantown Historical Society, Germantown, PA.; and guest curator at numerous exhibits at local history museums. She has lectured and organized workshops on the preservation of historic clothing and textiles for a number of historical organizations. Oberly currrently lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania and is writing a "help" guide for collectors of historic clothing.

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