Thursday, February 28, 2013

1873: “A lady should never receive morning callers in a wrapper.”

“The most suitable dress for breakfast is a wrapper made to fit the figure loosely,” advised Florence Hartley in her 1873 publication The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, Fashion, and Manual of Politeness.

In her chapter Entitled “Home Dresses” Hartley notes that while the wrapper should be loosely Fitted, it should not fit too loosely, as it was a woman’s goal to appear trim and neat, Even first thing in the morning.

According to the author:
“The most suitable dress for break- fast, is a wrapper made to fit the figure loosely, and the material, excepting when the winter weather required woolen goods, should be of chintz, gingham, brilliantine, or muslin. A lady who has children, or one accustomed to perform for herself light household duties, will soon find the advantage of wearing materials that will wash. 
A large apron of domestic gingham, which can be taken of, if the wearer is called to see unexpected visitors, will protect the front of the dress, and save washing the wrapper too frequently.”

Once breakfast was complete, it was time to change for the morning’s activities. The author Cautioned that “a lady should never receive morning callers in a wrapper.”

The selection of mid-19th century wrappers Shown here are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collections unless noted otherwise.

One of my personal favorites, this colorful and striking American-made, paisley wool wrapper is of One-piece and opens down the center. There are 15 pairs of disk buttons with cords trim the opening although it is actually closed by hooks and eyes. ca. 1854.
Wrappers were still common in the early years of the 20th century, though clearly most women could not acquire a wrapper such as this delightful one designed by Charles Frederick Worth in 1900. created for Bertha Honoré Palmer (1849-1918), Worth designed the wrapper (as well as numerous other items) for her visit to the Exposition universelle internationale de 1900, Paris. Fabricated of Silk taffeta, lace, satin, the fabric features a hydrangea blossom floral pattern with shades of purple, lavender and green. The High neck is trimmed with lace and the Watteau back is every bit as romantic as the name suggests. @Chicago History Museum Collections.

The author in a modern day 
Version of A Wrapper - 


  1. Hello!

    I have enjoyed reading your blog, and especially love this post about wrappers! I reenact the Civil War, and have been planning on making one for awhile. That paisley wool caught my eye, but where would I find such pretty fabric? They don't make fabric like they used to...lovely blog, please keep writing!


    1. Hello Kristen - thank you for your comments. Enjoying your blog as well! Cheers!

  2. Thank you for your kind words- they are much appreciated! I had a good time writing it- just the tip of the iceberg, really. Looking forward to reading your blog tomorrow. Cheers,


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