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All That Glitters - Part 1

Hoops & Bustles: 1860s-1880s

Kansas first opened for settlement in 1854. Even in the earliest years, balls and parties featured the best finery the frontier could afford.


Shot sillk gown, ca. 1860.

Shot Silk, 1850s-1860s

Gowns of the 1850s and 1860s required petticoats with hoops to support their bell-shaped skirts.

While not as fancy as many evening dresses of the time, this gown certainly was not worn to bake bread or scrub laundry.

It is made of a fine fabric known as shot silk. This is a weaving technique whereby the vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) threads on the loom are different colors. The fabric in this dress is woven of gray and blue threads to create an elegant iridescent look.

View a close-up of the shot silk fabric on the skirt.


Gold brocade gown, 1878.

Gold Brocade, 1878

Bustled figures were all the rage in the 1870s and '80s. Various undergarments helped achieve this shape, pushing the skirt's fullness to the rear instead of distributing it evenly as with the earlier hoop skirts.

This dress passed down in the Dillon family of Topeka. It is likely to have been worn by Susie Brown Dillon, who was married on Nov. 5, 1878. Her husband, Hiram Dillon, was a successful businessman in Topeka.

The gown's gold brocade fabric would nicely reflect the light cast by gas chandeliers in a ballroom. Its bustle effect is achieved by a silk rep underskirt lined in stiff, coarse fabric. The long train has a series of beige silk flounces and ruffles at the end. Edges are trimmed with a delicate fringe of cloth bellflowers and rosebuds strung on wire.

View a close-up of gold brocade fabric & trim on skirt.


Girl's shot silk dress, ca. 1880.

Girl's Shot Silk, 1870s-1880s

Little girls' fashions often are similar to grown-up versions. The fine shot silk of this dress indicates it was intended for a special occasion.

Overskirts and jacket-style bodices were very popular women's fashion at the time. Adult versions would have included a bustle. This dress likely was made for a girl in her early teens.

This two-piece dress, with bodice and skirt, is made of purple shot silk. The bodice is machine-sewn, while the skirt is hand-sewn. Lace, flounces, and drapery trim the elaborate profile.

View a close-up of the bodice.



Gold brocade gown, 1888.

Gold Brocade, 1888

The bustle replaced the hoop skirt by the early 1870s and remained popular for several decades.

Kate Ogden Clark wore this gown at her wedding to Robert Clark on February 9, 1888. The couple were married at Union Star, Missouri, then settled in Osborne, Kansas, where Mr. Clark ran a hardware and furniture business.

The fabric and pattern for this wedding gown came from France. A seamstress in St. Joseph, Missouri made the dress. The brocade fabric is woven in a floral design, and trimmed with plain satin, lace, and braid.

View a close-up of the skirt's trim.



All That Glitters: Dressing Up & Stepping Out is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. Hoops & Bustles: 1860s-1880s
  2. Turn of the Century: 1890-1910
  3. The Party Decade: 1920s
  4. The Honor of Your Company: Inaugural Ball Gowns
  5. Dressed in White: Wedding Gowns

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov