Plaid taffeta dresses were almost a fashion uniform in the 1850s-1860s. The dress was styled to be worn as shown in the picture; or else with button-on lower sleeves. The one remaining lower sleeve will be included for study purposes. The low, wide neckline could be worn off the shoulders. The fullness of the neckline can be adjusted with drawstring ties. The sleeves are ruched at the top and trimmed with silk fringe at the hem.
The Museum of Fine Arts exhibit, 'High Style and Hoop Skirts: 1850s Fashion,' is on display at the museum until March 15, 2005. Here, we see an American dress in two parts from about 1850, made with a jacquard-woven silk compound weave. The man's frock coat, also from the 1850s, is of wool, cotton, and quilted glazed broadcloth; the plush silk hat is French, from about 1840-1865, with a silk twill lining at the brim, a black grosgrain ribbon, and leather hat band.