Find of the Month: Early Edwardian Dinner Dress

March 2, 2013

February 2013

As usual, I found this lovely while browsing internet sales sites. I took a slight gamble on this dress since I was not very familiar or overly fond of early Edwardian. I had been watching and bidding on other items, but after a rash of disheartening losses, I thought that perhaps this wasn’t my month. I started watching this listing more out of curiosity than desire, but there was something about the dress that made me keep checking back over and over until I finally took the plunge. I am so happy that I did!


This dress is one of the most unusual I own appearance-wise. How can you not love that bright canary yellow?! The overlay of fantastic Art Nouveau lace is icing on the cake. Speaking of icing, there is a fine trail of glittering jet black beads down either side of the bolero-style front.

Though the leafy textured fabric looked black, it is really a very deep forest green. The edge of the skirt is weighted with two rows of cording to help it flare out instead of up as the wearer walked (the two central rows are just for show).


The wool blend is surprisingly sturdy, but slightly see-through where it is unlined. I can’t narrow this dress down to a specific year, but this dress dates to around 1893 to 1899 for certain!

Dress back


For being 115+ years old, the dress is in fair shape. There is a good-sized spot of fading on one mutton sleeve and plenty of staining and pock-mark holes on the skirt. The beading is crumbling, so I will have to stabilize it. The front is actually meant to fit more smoothly over the front, but even cinched down to it’s tiniest, my mannequin is too large to fit the slim 30 inch bust and 23 inch waist of the inner lining (Edwardian dresses, even if they look loose-fitting, actually have a tightly fitted lining inside. But more on that later!). Here’s a shot of me (5.5 feet tall, 35-29-35, uncorseted) standing next to the dress for size comp:

Dress size Comp

Judging by the style, fit, and proportions, this handsome dress was probably meant for a young lady. I can just imagine her out and about in this dress wearing shiny leather shoes, a jaunty hat, and toting a parasol!

10 Responses to “Find of the Month: Early Edwardian Dinner Dress”

  1. Beautiful! So glad you purchased it so you could share it on the blog. :)

  2. Although I’m not mad on the dress as a whole, the close-up of the bead work and dark lace over that bright yellow looks lovely. Interest8ng that it is a dark forest green – makes the dress seem less severe – I am wondering if this colour will show up more once you have worked your magic on it.

  3. Cassidy Says:

    Wow, very good find! I’ve started browsing eBay again, but am not having a ton of luck. This one looks like it’s in really good condition, and such a great bright yellow!

    I would say that this dates to 1894-1896. (The 1905-1909 big sleeves tend to have the width at the shoulders rather than the elbows, and there’s no blousing at the front of the waist.) Technically (sorry for the nitpick) those black seed beads are most likely glass with a little bit of glass disease to make them look opaque. Jet beads, since they’re carved rather than molded, tend to be larger.

    • Liz Says:

      The jet reference was meant to be for the color, not the material. Sorry for the confusion.

      • Cassidy Says:

        Oh I see! Sorry, it’s just one of the things I see a lot on catalogue descriptions so I’m oversensitive to the use of “jet”.

      • Liz Says:

        I completely understand. I am the same way with “mourning” clothes. Just because a dress is black does not mean it was a morning gown, especially post-1900!

  4. Green Martha Says:

    I see Cassidy was faster than me on dating the dress – and I fully agree. It’s ont GORGEOUS piece ! The pleats at the bodice center back are also quite characteristic for the mid-1890s – in fashion magazines, they’re all the rage in 1894, and gone by 1897.
    Thank you for sharing the hem details ! How do the bodice and skirt close ? (Yeah, I’m curious, especially about insides and technical details)

    • Green Martha Says:

      Actually, I’m also curious about the linings and if there’s anything to help the sleeves poof out … ?

      • Liz Says:

        It is straight-sleeved on the inside and the outer sleeve is an application with no stuffing inside. The fabric, though light, is structured enough to support itself. I’d love to get photos of the inside, but the beading and lace falling apart too rapidly for me to feel comfortable messing with the dress anymore until I can find time to stabilize it. I’ve carefully packed itaway for now, but I have another Edwardian dress that is in much better shape, though from about 10 years later, that is next on my to-photograph list.

  5. The Choll Says:

    Oh, wow! What a great buy! I love the “Find of the Month” series. Keep up the finding!

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