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Object Record

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Object Name Bodice
Catalog Number 0985.07.00051a
Date ca. 1864
Description Adult bodice, part of half-mourning dress consists of three separate pieces: bodice (.51), second bodice (.51a), and skirt (.51b). The material is purple printed cotton with small black decoration. The skirt waist is gathered onto a band. The first bodice (.51) has long sleeves with a button front, long cotton fringe, and a small turned collar. This bodice has long sleeves, a button front, white tape decoration, and a small standing collar. The buttons are two-piece metal covered in white fabric. Behind the buttons are a row of hand-worked eyelets for shank buttons (not present).
Dimensions L-67 inches
Owned Varina Banks Howell Davis
Made Varina Howell Davis (tentative)
Provenance "Dress … worn by Mrs. Davis during the war."

The second-stage mourning (half-mourning) dress belonged to Varina Howell Davis. She wore it while residing at the White House and probably in memory of her son Joseph, who fell to his death from the porch of the house. The skrimping in the waist fabric indicates the hard economic realities facing the Davis family at the time. Cost of this garment in 1864 was $1,000 (Confederate dollars). Mrs. Davis was most likely pregnant with Winnie at this time and used the fullness of the waist to conceal her condition.
People Davis, Varina Banks Howell [Mrs. Jefferson]
Howell, Varina Banks
Search Terms Richmond, Virginia
Subjects Civil War, U.S.
Clothing & dress