Circa 1900 Seaside Promenade Dress

My collecting is expanding slowly back in time, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to anything that dates before 1915. But in order to have a comprehensive collection showing how sportswear developed, one must make adjustments, as in the case of this dress. It was love at first sight, and so I added a dress for seaside promenades to my group of antique clothing.

I’ve looked at pictures of old dresses and at old fashion plates until my eyes crossed, and I still could not decide on a date. The sleeves are lighted gathered, the back of the skirt is gathered and has a bit of a tiny train effect, and there is a little peplum at the waist. It will not hurt my feelings at all if you want to help me pin down a date on this pretty dress.

Not quite sportswear, this dress nevertheless was meant for a casual walk along the boardwalk. The collar and fabric stripes fairly scream “nautical”.

Note: the hem looks dirty, but it is not. I’m guessing my stellar photography skills added the dirt.

The bodice has no permanent way to close it, so I’m guessing pins were used. Actually, a former owner had applied velcro, which I removed. I looked for signs of hooks and eyes from the past, but did not detect any old stitch marks. They could have been there, however.

The fabric is a fantastic cotton cord, which adds to the sporty look of the set.

The peplum effect is more pronounced in the back.

Maybe you can see here that the sleeves are gathered. They are also shaped with a bend in the elbow.

I think what really made me want this dress was that I was so crazy about a similar one in the collection at the Museum at FIT. I took this photo of their Uniformity exhibition in 2016. Maybe I need to do a reproduction tie and belt.


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports

10 responses to “Circa 1900 Seaside Promenade Dress

  1. To a novice eye your beautiful dress and the one shown on the left in the picture from the museum seem to be very similar, enough to be able to infer a similar age?


  2. Christina

    The velcro worries me. You often typically use velcro in costuming for theatre. What are the fastenings on the waistband of the skirt like? A pic of the inside construction would be good.


  3. I can’t shed any insight into this frock except to add my congratulations for restoring a gorgeous article of clothing which I would have given anything to be able to wear in my slender youth!


  4. jacq staubs

    I agree with you re: Uniformity COLLECTION. how pretty! It reminds me of a dress for cruise wear- for on deck shuffle board and even table tennis. Also has a “midi”/ nautical look with the tie and belt. I would guess circa 1910’s . The peplum “flirty” ruffle treatment reminds the echo of the bustle – or just a pretty way to finish of the back. Definitely a dress for a wealthy lady.


  5. I have a letter written from my grandmother to my grandfather during that time period about a visit to Atlantic City – it was where they arranged for her to meet my grandfather’s parents before they married. Their courtship lasted for several years during which they saw each other only five times. I can imagine her wearing a dress such as this because she told him in one of the letters that she had had a new dress made for the occasion and his mother in another letter remarked at how well “kept” she seemed to be!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful set! Definitely do the tie and belt since you have such a great research from the FIT photo.


  7. Amanda

    What Hollis said. Great addition to your collection Lizzie.


  8. kickshawproductions

    NICE score!


  9. Edwardian is my favorite fashion period to study 🙂 To me this looks early Edwardian. 1901-1904 ish. Very Gibson Girl. The red one looks 1905-1907 ish. There’s too much skirt going on on yours for it to be much later than than 1905, tops. And the larger belt ruffles would have been a bit dated for anything later as well. The late Edwardian dresses were much slimmer and sleeker. The sailor collars were usually more rounded and dainty too, and many had some sort of asymmetrical design. They also got a bit more detailed as the years went on, as seen with the red one. But really it’s the bottom of the dress with all of the room for a fairly fluffy petticoat that gives it away. Of course, as with any fashion, someone could have made this in the late Edwardian period if they were a bit behind fashion wise. And older people tended to keep the Gibson style alive because they weren’t too keen on the “daring” slimline look. So it’s hard to scientifically date, but style-wise it’s early 1900’s.


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