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Bib Front Gown c. 1811 - 1825

  • FL210 front
  • FL210 original front
  • FL210 original back
  • FL210 notions
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Product Description

The Camden Archives and Museum has been entrusted with the care of the famed Lafayette Ball gown worn by Margaret Evans Larkin Rochelle Starke in 1825 on the occasion of General Lafayette’s visit to Camden. Margaret (1791-1872) was the wife of Thomas Starke (1789-1855). They resided in Fairfield County where Thomas was a planter of some means. Margaret wore this dress six months after the birth of her seventh child and it would have been a flattering style for a post pregnancy figure.

The gold silk dress is made in the Empire style, with a high waist and apron front, gathered in the front and elegantly pleated in the back. The apron front is gathered by a brown silk drawstring above the bosom and the high waist was once gathered by a brown silk sash which tied in the front and was tacked at the waist in the back. The dress would have been a bit past its height of style in 1825, when the Empire look was being replaced by the Romantic style. Ten years earlier, when Margaret would have been twenty-four, this dress would have been the style of choice. In its earlier form, it had ties on either side of the apron front which tied in the back of the dress, cinching in the high front waist. It also likely had longer sleeves. Perhaps in a quest to update it for the ball, the side ties were removed (we can still see the stitch holes where they were). After the side ties were removed, the brown silk sash tied in the front served to cinch the high waistline. The sleeves were cut shorter and rushed upward by stitching and gathering them vertically to make them appear poufy. With these changes the dress had a more transitional look toward the Romantic style lines. Resourceful girl, that Margaret! With the tortoise shell tiara comb that she wore in her hair that night, she cut quite a stylish figure, without the cost of a new gown!

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