Costume Moment – Dress and Petticoat

Dress and petticoat worn by Abigail Robbins, Lexington, Mass. MFA, Boston, 99.664.29a-b.

This trained gown and petticoat combination, held by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has always appealed to me. The rustle of the light silk and the drawstring pulling the fullness against the body in front, paired with its soft color made me think this would have been a dream to wear after the corsetry of earlier decades. Abigail Robbins (1759-1850), the wearer of this ensemble, lived until just before the era of the hoop, so she would have met corsets again. I dressed the mannequin for this photograph; click here to peruse the online record for this ensemble.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.