This bodice, with its low neck and short sleeves, originally formed part of an elegant and costly ballgown. Both the materials from which it was made and its construction are of very high quality, and the trimmings carefully chosen. The blue-edged silk ribbon, used for the neckline border and the bow, is warp-printed with flower sprigs very close in size and colour to those printed on the muslin. The lining is finely finished, the boning encased in silk, and the stitching of the lacing holes at the centre back is barely visible to the naked eye.
The muslin of the bertha (the deep collar) and the short oversleeves gives a clue to the form of the missing skirt. It can be seen to be a printed border to the sprigged muslin of the bodice, making it extremely likely that the skirt comprised flounces with the same borders.
Two further examples of 1850s dresses printed with matching border designs, known as ‘à disposition’, can be seen in Related Items.