This dress was originally worn by Carolyn Fellowes Morgan (1832-1914), who was born in Louisville, KY and married David Pierce Morgan. Mrs. David Pierce Morgan was a prominent member of the social scene in New York City at the turn of the century. One newspaper article from January 2, 1907 writes of her hosting a grand ball for 500 people in New York in honor of her debutante granddaughters, where the Countess of Strafford and Mrs. John Jacob Astor was said to have attended. She passed away in New York City at the age of 82. Her great granddaughter, Mrs. Philip Brooks, lived in Darien with her family in the 1950s and 60s, and donated this dress to our museum.
The dress is made from a deep burgundy satin and embellished with elaborate pleating and drapes on the skirt. The highlight of the ensemble is the artfully gathered bustle which fans out from a center attachment to the back of the jacket and puffs out across the top of the skirt. The front of the skirt is draped asymmetrically to show off a row of tight pleats along the bottom half of the dress. The dress also features a distinctly low neckline that would not have been appropriate for early daywear, which suggests this could have been an afternoon or evening ensemble.
The label on the interior waistband of the dress reads “M’elles Althabe, Robes de Monteau, Rue Fortin, Paris,” signaling that this dress was made in Paris. Paris has been seen as the center of the western fashion world for centuries, starting with the French royal court and taking off in the 19th century with the rise in Haute Couture fashion houses such as House of Worth. Therefore it was not uncommon for many women from a wealthier background to sometimes travel to Paris for various items in their wardrobe.
Burgundy is a serious color that has been associated with high class society, wealth, and pride in one’s appearance. Due to the deep color and heaviness of the fabric, this dress would have been worn by its original owner in the cooler months, perhaps Fall or Winter.