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This delicate nightgown was made by a young bride’s mother for a trousseau. While many early twentieth-century nightgowns were beautifully designed, this example is particularly alluring. Its sleeves are fashioned from bands of lace, loosely held together by satin bows, and another bow draws attention to the gown’s low-cut back. The handmade lace and fine, gauzy cotton further underscore the nightgown’s seductive qualities.
A bridal trousseau consisted of many items – from house wares and linens to outerwear – but lingerie was an especially crucial component. If a bride made her selections well, she would not need to purchase new underclothes for several years.1 By the early twentieth century, a trousseau could include both handmade and ready-made garments.2
During the nineteenth century, trousseaux were often put on view for female family members and friends. An extensive trousseau indicated a family’s wealth and status. Such exhibitions were less common by the following century, and trousseaux disappeared almost entirely after World War II.3
1. L. B. Walford, “The Lace Camisole,” Century Illustrated Magazine (December 1900): 178.
3. Muriel Barbier and Shazia Boucher, The Story of Women’s Underwear (New York: Parkstone International, 2010), 94.