Evening dress

Date: 1877–82

Culture: European

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Gift of Aline Bernstein, 1937

Accession Number: C.I.37.61.1a, b


With mechanized sewing becoming ubiquitous, as well as the Victorian penchant for machine-made trimmings such as braid, lace, and ribbons, women's dress became the foundation on which elaborate surface decoration was applied. This example was seen in its day as à la sirène, or mermaidlike, in outline. Its extended bodice, called the "cuirasse" since it encased a woman's torso like body armor, was the clearest nineteenth-century expression of the hourglass shape.