A Brief “Before and After” Peek at the Travels and Travails of an Extant Garment.

Young lady's blue chambray sea side ensemble with white eyelet trim, probably American, c. 1880.

Young lady’s blue chambray sea side ensemble with white eyelet trim, probably American, c. 1880.

I always feel a bit sad when I look at this dress. I try to imagine a young woman strolling along a beachfront promenade in her beautiful new seaside ensemble, parasol held high as she watches children dodging waves and building sand castles…and the occasional handsome young man (while her mother stands by, disapproving). And I wonder – how did it get to this state, so terribly soiled, yet still pretty much intact.

The photographs above were taken when the dress was listed for auction by Augusta Auctions on November 2, 2011 as Lot #238. 3-piece, skirt, bodice & belt, all in blue chambray trimmed w/ ivory eyelet bands: skirt w/ apron front, hem ruffle & 5 ruffles over bustle back; fitted blouse, front thread woven buttons, band collar; eyelet belt w/ huge chambray back bow, B 30″, W 20″, Skirt L 52″, (couple tiny holes, brown discoloration on chambray) very good; t/w 1 red & white striped cotton shirt waist, excellent. Brooklyn Museum.

The winning bid was $840.

So it was acquired from The Brooklyn Museum, most likely as a de-accession. The poor things looks as if it’s been drug through the mud, “brown discoloration on chambray”, but otherwise in pretty good shape. I was surprised to find such a soiled/discolored garment coming as from a historical fashion-savvy museum and I’d love to know the story behind it.

And then, just a few days ago, I found this and couldn’t believe my eyes.

Robe pour le bord de mer, vers 1880, en toile de coton chinée bleu ciel, corsage cintré à basques rondes, garnitures de volants et entredeux en broderie anglaise. Jupe à tablier drapé à 5 hauteurs de volants sur la tournure.

Robe pour le bord de mer, vers 1880, en toile de coton chinée bleu ciel, corsage cintré à basques rondes, garnitures de volants et entredeux en broderie anglaise. Jupe à tablier drapé à 5 hauteurs de volants sur la tournure.

It’s the same dress! Clean and pressed and just as I’d imagined it. The Pinterest pinner indicated this image was “found on catalogue.drouot.com” – Hôtel Drouot is a large auction house in Paris, known for fine art, antiques, and antiquities. It consists of 16 halls hosting 70 independent auction firms, which operate under the umbrella grouping of Drouot. Interestingly, the pinner’s description is the same description used by Augusta Auctions – exactly, and in English. What’s going on?

Fortunately, I can stumble about fairly decently in French. Even better, there’s no charge to search (recherche) the Drouot site. I tried searching in French to no avail. Searching in English went nowhere fast. So I have no idea of when it was listed for auction or from whence it came to be auctioned. I’m curious, but not enough to pay Hôtel Drouot €100 a year for full site privileges in order to find out. But I kept digging.

As it turns out, catalogue.drouot.com has its own Pinterest page. It’s a single board with everything pinned on it – no categories. I went through every single image down to the last pin. Nothing.

Did it go from a French auction house to the Brooklyn Museum to Augusta Auctions? And what explains the deterioration in condition? I suppose I could call Augusta Auctions and ask for information about the history behind Lot #238, but I don’t think it’s worth disrupting their day just to satisfy my curiosity.

And so I shall, as always, remain curious. But I’m delighted to have found an image of it in its original condition. If anyone has more information, I’d love to know.

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10 thoughts on “A Brief “Before and After” Peek at the Travels and Travails of an Extant Garment.

  1. Sadly, there are a lot of people out there that thinks it’s fun to wear these original garments – including in movies. Movies actually try to “distress” or almost destroy the garment sometimes depending on the genre. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case with this one.

    • Yes, sad indeed. It’s one thing to use an old garment that’s nothing but shreds and pieces, depending on what’s left. But to purposefully do this to a perfectly good antique?! Unforgivable. If someone had the brilliant idea to “distress” this wonderful ensemble, they’d best beware – I’d quite happily “distress” them a bit in return.

  2. I wondered if the French auction house bought it and cleaned it up to resell, that would be a happier order, but it all depends on the date they listed it.

  3. Heartbreaking! 😦
    Looks like water damage. Maybe it was purchased form the French auction house, then damaged, so the owner decided to resell it? Maybe your detective work will turn up more clues later!

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