1855-1865, Purple Cotton Dress


Hand sewn, well-worn and faded red violet cotton dress with tan and white vertical print design. Bodice has jewel neckline and long full barrel sleeves gathered into dropped shoulders with armscye piping at sleeve cap. Sleeves tightly gathered into narrow 1" cuff that closes with hook and eye.

Bodice front has waistband with front fullness gathered into it; center front opening of dress extends into skirt 8", with 3 shell buttons and buttonholes on bodice over fitted inner bodice of white cotton that has 2 front waist darts and fastens with brass hooks and eyes. Bodice fronts extend to side back and back shoulder seams; bodice back has no additional seams. Bodice waist seam piped at lower edges where it attaches to skirt.

Full skirt, six 24.5" wide panels, cartridge pleated and sewn to bodice; one 1" horizontal tuck 11.5" from hem decorates skirt; self-fabric pocket at side front seam; 6.5" hem facing of tan cotton; narrow turned-up hem.






Additional fiber images and information available at the CAMEO Materials Database at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.


This dress belonged to one of the female members of the Sheets family who resided in Elizabeth County, Ohio. The patriarch, Isaac Sills Sheets, was a prominent farmer who lived from 1799-1876. His wife, Nancy Knoop, was from Miami County, Ohio and lived from 1801-1862. Isaac moved to the area from Bedford, Pennsylvania. Isaac also built and operated a sawmill from his property. The dress could have been worn by Nancy or by one of her daughters, Elizabeth (1826-1918) or Mary Anne (1830-1915). After Nancy's death, Mary and Lizzie (Elizabeth) were in charge of the home and remained there until their father's death. When he died, Elizabeth moved to her own farm and Mary remained as housekeeper for her brother George until his marriage in 1885. She did, however, remain living on the property after his marriage. The dress shows considerable wear at the elbows, indicating that labor was performed while it was worn.

Design Elements

Barrel Sleeves, Hourglass Silhouette

Fiber/Fabric Information





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“1855-1865, Purple Cotton Dress,” Fashion2Fiber, accessed April 12, 2021,

Item Relations

Item: History's Closet depicts This Item