This bodice probably formed part of a fancy dress outfit worn in the early 1880s. At a time when dressing up for pageants and balls was at its height those fortunate enough to have inherited garments belonging to earlier generations of their family were often able to adapt them into successful new outfits. Frequently, very little work was necessary to achieve an impressive ‘historical’ costume, and many 18th Century gowns owe their survival today to the fact that, with the addition of some lace or an accessory, they could be pressed once again into service (see Related Item).
The transformation of a late 18th Century man’s embroidered court waistcoat into this woman’s bodice has involved more thought and effort. That is was achieved professionally is evident from an almost illegible dressmaker’s name on the inner waistband. The two fronts of the original waistcoat have been mounted onto a cream silk twill lining and shaped with long boned darts; they are fastened with hooks and eyes with additional non functioning buttons covered in tiny metallic beads to one side. Fortuitously, the pointed bottom edges typical of later 18th Century waistcoats correspond to the double pointed hems that were a feature of some bodices at this time. A new back and high collar have been cut from the same silk in contemporary style with appropriate boning, and below the waist the back has been shaped to accommodate the breadth of the re-emerging bustle. New sleeves of pale blue-green silk ruched into puffs with horizontal bands of hand stitching are the clearest pointer to the date of this adaptation.
An Additional Image shows the bodice flanked by a floral embroidered court waistcoat of around the turn of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and an early 1880s two piece dress of a delicate coloured silk, similar to that used for the sleeves, that has also been enthusiastically ruched into horizontal puffs.