Why would such beautiful detail and meticulous work be put into a mere nightgown? This gown was made for a woman in a weathy household. During the mid-19th century, a wealthy woman could easily have spent 12 hours a day in her nightclothes, in her bedroom or suite. Young women and old had countless reasons, some real, some imagined, for remaining in their nightwear in their rooms ~ headaches and ill health, pregnancy, handling household affairs being only a few of them. In an upper crust household, she even had the option of having her meals brought to her boudoir. She would want to be comfortable, yet at the same time look fashionable. This garment fit the bill.
At first sight, we might call this a robe. Today's robes open down the front and often have button closures. But this would have been a nightgown made not for lounging or taking care of household affairs in her boudoir, but for actual sleeping. Nightgowns were designed along a simple foundation, like the basic chemise, but were trimmed in lace, frills, eyelet, openwork or other needlework, columns of ruching, etc. They would have long sleeves with proper cuffs and high necklines. All this detail added to the garment's worth, but made its care and upkeep painstaking and time-consuming. You can tell this was a nightgown worn by a woman who was able to leave the care of it to her servants.
Our gown is in very fine condition. There are very few imperfections to report. Only one, really, a handstitched repair at the hem, looking like it was done in the early 20th century. The front closure has its 20 original mother of pearl buttons securely attached. They are tiny, as are the buttonholes. At the throat, there is a buttonhole on each side of the opening, enabling the use of a fancy stud button. Eyelet trims the cuffs and the high collar. The collar also has a charming addition of fine Valenciennes lace. The sleeves are tightly gathered at the shoulders and the wrists, ensuring for a beautifully full look. The wrists have a 6" wide decorative border of tucks, eyelet and ruched frill. Cascades of tucks, scalloped eyelet and columns of ruched frill extend the entire length of the front. The back has a charming yoke, plain, stitched, looking for all the world like the yoke of a cowboy shirt. Which is why we call this our cowboy nightgown. Approximate measurements: 51" from mid-shoulder seam to front hem; bust 40"; waist 42", hips slightly expanded from there; sleeves 23" from dropped shoulder seam. And the surprise I've waited for the very end to tell you ~ this gown is cool, comfortable and easy to launder and iron. Believe it or not. (Reference: for a similar nightgown, see online archives of the Concord Museum, Concord, MA.)