American, Dress, 1884, Silk brocade and satin weave, trimmed with chenille; 61 cm (24 inches) (center back length) Handbook 2008, bodice, Gift of Miss Beatrice McCloy 60.068.2
During the last third of the nineteenth century the dressmaker’s art truly came into its own. An emphasis on layering, exaggerated form, and ostentatious display of rich colors and textiles reached a peak during the 1880s. The fullness fashionable at mid-century was replaced with a passion for closeness of fit. This style is apparent in the bodice of this dress, which was long and tightly buttoned over a torso-distorting corset. The bustle, which had disappeared in the late 1870s, reappeared as a steel-banded extension to the derrière, which created the effect of a platform behind and made the female figure below the waist look as though it were a centaur.