1900's Black Silk Chiffon and Lace Gown


This gown is made of black silk chiffon, finely pin tucked, and inset with five different kinds of lace throughout. The gown is from the turn of the century (1900 to 1905), is made in the mono-bosom style and features a high collar with boning at the side seams and the center back, a natural waistline and full length sleeves.

The gown is full length with a small bustle (separate piece) and a small train in back and ends in a two inch black chiffon dust ruffle. The high collar is made of a finely pin tucked tulle which is trimmed in a black metallic lace at the top of the collar and in a V at the bottom of the tulle on the bodice. The top of the collar is decorated with a line of small jet crystals.

The bodice features a central embroidered floral detail and is flanked on either side with large (approximately ¾ inch) tucks and embroidered trim. The tucks and trim frame the bodice, front and back, feathering horizontally from the shoulders to the elbows. From the elbows the sleeves change to the vertical pin tucks in the black silk chiffon, which are gathered into the lace cuffs. The cuffs close with loops and two tiny black tatting wheel buttons and two mother of pearl buttons.

The five different laces that decorate the gown run from the very fine floral lace at the waist and the oval motifs, to the heavier embroidered and corded laces of the bodice and sleeves. The large lace which runs down the length of the skirt and trims out the cuffs and the hem has a small geometric pattern. The metallic lace of the collar is more of a scroll design.

Thirty oval jet medallions are the main feature of this gown. They are about 2 - 2.5 inches long and are surrounded with smaller jet and black glass beads. Two sit vertically on the bodice at the corners of the embroidered detail, and six sit under the lace oval insets at the hips. Three decorate the waistline and are oriented horizontally, one is at the center front waistline and there are two above and below the waist at center back. The 25 other jet medallions sit horizontally above the hem of the skirt.
The gown closes at center back with 2 jet medallions (closed with hook and loop) at the waist, 17 tiny black corded knots and loops, and 6 mother of pearl buttons and loops (tulle collar).
The underdress is made of off-white organza, has a three layer pleated ruffle at the hem and a three layered ruffle in the bodice to fill out the silhouette of the mono-bosom.






This dress was probably worn by Mary Moulton Whiley who lived in Lancaster, Ohio. She lived from 1865-1948 and was married to Charles Bell Whiley, who worked as a lawyer. It is possible that it was worn as part of a mourning wardrobe. Mary's father, Robert Cotton Moulton passed away in 1908. He had lived in nearby Champaign, Ohio and had been a farmer. Her father-in-law, Frederick C. Whiley, passed away in 1911. Frederick had been a banker living in Lancaster, Ohio. While Mary's daughter, Dorothy Bell Whiley Peters, would have been 19 years old in 1910, the style of this dress suggests that it was worn by an older woman. Mary would have been between the ages of 35 and 45 when this dress would have been worn.

Design Elements

Standing Band Collar, Bishop Sleeve, Hourglass Silhouette

Fiber/Fabric Information





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“1900's Black Silk Chiffon and Lace Gown,” Fashion2Fiber, accessed April 13, 2024,