May Littledale (née Primrose) wore this romantic ball gown shortly after her marriage to Henry Littledale in 1885. Unfortunately she did not have long to enjoy it as she died in a riding accident the following year.

May had excellent taste in dress and the gown is at the height of fashion for its time. The heavily boned bodice is laced behind like a corset and extends into a deep point, which gracefully curves over the back of the skirt. This emphasises the tiny waist and bustled (padded at the rear) silhouette that were hallmarks of stylish dress in the mid-1880s. The bodice is also cut fairly high on the hips to allow for the folds of moiré silk draped across the front and sides of the dress to complement the huge bow.

During this period drapery was often composed of separate pieces mounted onto the foundation skirt rather than being formed by the cut of the skirt. Here, a small cushion sewn into the back of the waist and a stiffened lining pulled into shape by tapes help the skirt project behind while remaining flat in front.


  • Title: Ball gown
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1880/1889
  • Location: Great Britain
  • Provenance: Given by the Hon. Mrs Tyser, in memory of the Dowager Lady Remnant
  • Medium: Moiré silk overlaid and trimmed with machine lace, and lined with silk, cotton and whalebone

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