Lilac 1880 Dress

This dress started as a study of my great-great-great grandmother, Lillian Arabelle McFall Ormsby. She was born in 1858, the daughter of a innkeeper. She married a farmer, Gideon Ormsby, at the age of 17, and died in 1882 at age 24, probably in childbirth.

I had hoped that more details on Lillian–called Belle by her family– would come to light as I worked on the dress, but in that respect, I was disappointed. The dress might be a “Sunday Best” for Belle, or even outside her means, but I enjoyed making it and imagining her wearing it to church picnics. I particularly enjoyed making the embroidered lilac buttons. The dress and bonnet are based on designs in Francis Grimble’s “Fashions of the Gilded Age.” My husband Eric took the photos in our back yard during the 2020 pandemic.

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