Evening Dress (c. 1857-1935)
This beautiful hand-quilted silk/satin/fur coat was made by Louvenia Price, a woman who was born enslaved in Massachusetts. She worked as a dressmaker even after she was emancipated, and made this coat for her own use. It has a pocket, which suggests it was more than just a decoration garment, and two ribbons at the waistline to secure it to the wearer’s body. It was passed down to the maker’s descendants.
This dress is very beautiful, and the fact that Price continued to make dresses after she was emancipated suggests that it was something she really loved doing. It looks like it would have taken quite a bit of time to make since it was most likely quilted by hand. She used designs popular in the late Victorian period, which suggests that Price had some interest in the era or just loved the design patterns of the era. The dress looks expensive and fancy, and it was made with silk satin, silk velvet, fur, and metal, so it likely has some cost attached to it. The sleeves begin near the elbow, which creates a cape-look from the front; this could be interpreted as looking intimidating (along with the dark colors mixed with the shiny orange). Price made this for her own use, and I imagine she used it for practical purposes instead of just wearing it to look fancy. It has a pocket and a strap that tightens around the waist, so she may have used it when she was doing some kind of activities and didn’t want it to slip off. The maximum height of the dress is 54 inches and looks like it goes all the way to the ankles, which tells us that Price was likely a short woman. It seems like a thick and warm dress, so Price probably wore it most in the winter, but not outside in the snow as to not ruin it. The picture makes it look like it’s in great condition, so it was very well taken care of by its wearers. Price must have been an expert quilter because it looks like there are no rips or tears on the dress as well.