Hem Circumference Resource

This blog post will function as a continually-updated resource instead of a log. I do a significant amount of research on historical garments, both for my personal sewing and my academic work, and all too often find myself Googling “hem circumference 18____?” to help date extant gowns.

Go ahead, guess how big these hems are. (Your guess is as good as mine, because they’re not listed! But you might be able to get an idea via the list below.)

As an example, I recently worked on conserving a gown that could feasibly date from 1850-1860. Its bertha and skirt decorations weren’t being particularly useful, but its skirt circumference was! At only 120″ (305cm) on the smallest tier, it would have been a spectacularly tiny hem for an 1860s evening gown. An everyday outfit would have been different, but for something that was supposedly Parisian high fashion, that would not have made the cut. That pushed it earlier, before the introduction of the crinoline. (Yes, there are always exceptions, but we needed an approximate date, so I had to make do with educated assumptions. Other information contributed; I’m just mentioning the hem as an example.)

So that I do not have to constantly re-search the same queries, I’m putting together a little big ol’ resource on this post of hem circumferences throughout the era (and of what kind of dress they were from). Please message me if there is a dress, support, or petticoat that you’d like to add to the list!

Things that this list can help with:

  • measuring/planning your own projects
  • dating extant garments
  • visual guide of what various circumferences look like over different kinds of supports, or flat vs. ruffled, and so forth.


PLEASE NOTE:

-> “Day dress” only means that it is not an evening gown (the distinction being that evening wear has low necklines and/or short sleeves and/or a train.) ‘Day dress’ can encapsulate walking dresses, fancy afternoon tea, and some that are suitable for dinner. I will distinguish between day dresses and wrappers.
-> It is also worth pointing out that mid-century, dresses were often made with more than one bodice so that they could be used for both day and evening, so please do not make serious assumptions based on what I have labeled them!
-> I have included garments like petticoats, coats, and cloaks on this list because they can help determine how large or small the skirt has to be in order to go over or under. Such items are specified; anything not bolded is a dress or skirt.
-> Many of these dresses were altered after they were first worn. In such cases, I have tried to discern whether the skirt appears changed or not, and assigned the dress to the era of the hem. In most cases, it is likely that re-made gowns did not have enough original fabric to widen the skirt (i.e. for 1850s->60s, I generally put them in the 1850s category), but this is not always the case. I have indicated remakes where I was aware of them; please take such gowns with a grain of salt.

And now, what you were waiting for….

1700-1799

1745-55 white quilted satin petticoat: 160″ (406cm) (day dress, meant as outerwear) Costume in Detail pg. 22
1750-1800 small child’s cotton dress: 81″ (206cm) (22.75″/58cm ribs; 21.25″/54cm waist to floor) CiD 71
c. 1760-70 red figured silk: 96″ (244cm) (française – petticoat?) | Mint Museum 2003.58A-B

1800-1825

1800-1804 white cotton: 86″ (218cm) (work dress) | DAR* Museum 82.138.2
1800-1806 white cotton: 94.5″ (240cm) (evening dress)| DAR 78.65.1
1804 olive-tan silk: 85″ (216cm) (Quaker wedding dress) | DAR 82.138.1
1806-1810 white cotton: 76″ (193cm) (day dress) CiD 374 | Collection of Nancy Bradfield
1807-1810 white cotton: 92″ (234cm) (day/evening dress) | DAR 57.5
c. 1810 brown damask silk: 92″ (234cm) (day dress; remade from c.1705 on) | DAR 2528
1810-1815 white/red spotted cotton: 84″ (213cm)  (day dress)| Private collection
1812 white cotton: 69″ (175cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 66.179
c. 1814 cream silk: 73″ (185cm) (day dress) | DAR 76.92
c. 1814 white cotton: 84″ (213cm) (evening dress) | DAR 93.26
c.1815 white & purple check cotton: 62″ (157.5cm) (day dress) CiD 99
1815-1819 blue silk: 70″ (178cm) (day dress) | DAR 76.91
1815-20 gold-brown silk: 105″ (267cm) (Qkr wedding dress?) | DAR 76.90
1817-22 gold silk: 92.5″ (235cm) (evening dress) | DAR 2013.26.1
1819 green/pink silk: 94″ (239cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 63.191
c.1820 green silk: 68″ (173cm) (day dress)
c.1820 cream silk for young teen: 80″ (203cm) (evening dress?)
1822-27 cream silk/wool: 76″ (93cm) (day dress? could be evening) CiD 123
1824 white cotton: 85″ (216cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 62.18
1825-28 printed floral white cotton: 80″ (203cm) (day dress) CiD 129

1825-1836

1827-28 purple plaid silk: 88″ (223.5cm) (day dress) CiD 141
1825-29 purple silk and gauze: 90″ (229cm) (evening gown) CiD 143
1828-30 yellow silk over-dress: 96″ (244cm) (evening gown) CiD 147
1829-31 purple & white printed silk?: 110″ (279cm) (evening gown) CiD 149
1830-33 purple-black silk: overdress 96″ (244cm), underdress 116″ (295cm) (evening gown; I double checked the numbers & it makes no sense) CiD 151 | Chastleton House
1829-33 white checked cotton: 136″ (345cm) (day dress) CiD 156
c. 1830 olive-brown silk: 92″ (234cm) (Qkr day dress) | DAR 82.138.16
c. 1830 gold-tan silk: 90″ (229cm) (Qkr day dress) | DAR 82.138.15
1830-35 cream printed cotton: 104″ (264cm) (day dress) | DAR 76.94
1830-35 red/white/blue cotton: 95″ (241cm) (day/work dress) | DAR 2002.21
1834 ivory cotton: 130″ (330cm) | VAM T.63-1973

1826-28 grey-brown silk cloak: 81″ (206cm), CiD 126
1825-30 red wool cloak: 89″ (226cm) CiD 131
1830-35 grey-brown silk mantle: 119″ (302cm) CiD 160
1832 ivory satin: 99″ (251cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 77.6

1836-1845

1836-37 cream silk: 144″ (366cm) (evening gown) CiD 163
1836-39 ivory floral printed cotton: 100″ (254cm) (day dress) | DAR 2007.29
1837 cream floral wool/silk: 107″  (272cm) (day dress) | DAR 62.72.2
1837 ivory silk: 124″ (315cm) (wedding dress) |DAR 62.72.1.B
1837-39 printed black cotton: 140″ (356cm) (day dress) CiD 165
1837-40 printed white cotton: 125″ (317.5cm) (day dress) CiD 169
1837-40 printed brown cotton: 89″ (226cm) (day dress) | DAR 2007.26
1837-38 cream floral silk: 128″ (325cm) (day dress) CiD 171
1837-41 green silk: 103.5″ (263cm) (day dress) | DAR 76.104
1840 green figured silk: 100″ (254cm) (wedding dress!)
c. 1840 yellow floral silk: 139″ (353cm) (evening gown??; remade)
1840-45 dark printed cotton: 126″ (320cm) (less formal day dress) | DAR 98.2.1
1840-45 white cotton: 130″ (330cm) (day dress, nursing) | DAR 98.77
c. 1840-45 blue silk: 105″ (267cm) (evening & dinner gown; dinner bodice is 1890s)
c.1840-45 gold/black striped silk: 126″ (320cm) (dinner/evening dress?)
1841 orange print cotton/wool: 152″ (386cm) (day dress) | Auckland Museum 1965.78.692
1841 cream striped silk/wool: 124″ (315cm) (day/evening) CiD 175
c. 1842 white floral print silk(?): 125″ (317.5cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1844 grey plaid silk: 115″ (292cm) (day dress) | MET ?
c. 1845 green silk: 96″ (244cm) day dress)
c. 1845 pink floral silk: 139″ (353cm) (evening gown)
c. 1845 black silk: 147″ (day dress; second mourning?; remade in 1850s)

1830s? black silk petticoat: 109″ (277cm)

1846-1855

1845-50 cream/tan printed cotton: 119″ (302cm) (day dress) | DAR 2009.19.1.A
c. 1848 pale silk: 150″ (381cm) (day dress)
1849-50 purple printed plaid wool: 132″ (335cm) (day dress; tiered with ruffles)
c. 1850 brown printed cotton: 120″ (305cm) (work dress)
c. 1850 blue/green/gold plaid silk: 140″ (356cm) (day dress)
c. 1850 ivory silk tulle: 160″ (406cm) (evening gown; tiered w ruffles)
1851-54 cream/brown/pink printed wool: 125″ (317.5cm) (day dress) CiD 189
c. 1852 green silk: 128″ (325cm) (day dress; remade from 1840s)
1852 green/cream printed cotton: 96″ (day/wedding? dress) | DAR 2009.19.3
1853 blue/pink silk: 167″ (424cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 3213
c. 1855? printed cotton: 79.5″ (202cm) (wrapper)
c. 1855 brown printed cotton: 99″ (251cm) (Qkr? work dress) | DAR 84.12
c.1855 black silk: 144″ (366cm) (day dress; late mourning?)
c. 1855 red figured silk: 120″ (305cm) (day dress; later altered)
1855-57 blue and gold silk: 112.5″ (286cm) (day dress) | DAR 2014.21.20
c. 1855-58 green/brown figured silk: 126.25″ (321cm) | DAR S.81.29
c.1855-58 yellow silk: 120″ (305cm) (evening gown; tiered w ruffles; def pre-crin (has wood in hem)) | Coll. of Longfellow House LONG 13493
c. 1855 brown/blue figured silk: 137″ (348cm) (day dress; remade c. 1860) | DAR 49.76.1
c. 1855 black/brown/green printed silk: 166″ (422cm) (day dress; remade c. 1863) | DAR 73.127.1

Quilted petti: 120″ (305cm) (probably 1830-50 or so, just putting it here)
1852-68 white cashmere cloak: 120″ (305cm) CiD 194


1856-68 (crinoline era)

c. 1855-60 blue/brown printed plaid silk: 130″ (330cm) (day dress)
c. 1856-8 blue silk: 170″ (432cm) (day dress; def crinoline)
1856-59 blue figured silk: 122.5″ (311cm) (day dress) | DAR 2010.34.2.B
c. 1857 brown/white printed plaid silk: 164″ (416.5cm) (day dress)
c. 1858 brown silk: 127″ (322.5cm) (day dress)
c. 1858 green/red printed challis: 134″ (340cm) (day dress)
1858-60 black silk: 132″ (335cm) (day dress; tiered w ruffles)
c. 1859 brown/green ikat silk: 134″ (340cm) (day dress)
c. 1859 brown figured silk: 140″ (356cm) (day dress)
c. 1859-60 black silk: 150″ (381cm) (day dress; part mourning?)
c. 1860 tan & purple plaid silk: 138″ (350.5 cm) (day dress; remade from 1850s)
c. 1860 grey-brown wool/silk: 170″ (432cm) (day dress) | Old Sacramento Living History
c. 1860 blue and tan plaid silk: 143″ (363cm) (day dress; possibly made in 1850s & altered)
c. 1860 blue and tan striped silk skirt: 163″ (414cm) (probably day)
c. 1860 black silk: 150″ (381cm) (day, probably mourning)
1860-66 tan/brown printed cotton: ???** (work dress) | DAR 2010.14.1
1861 ivory silk: 168″ (427cm) (wedding dress) | DAR 96.10.1.B
c. 1862 purple wool/silk: 112″ (284cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1862-3 brown plaid silk: 162″ (411.5cm) (wrapper)
c. 1863 purple wool: 136″ (345cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1863 cream floral silk: 140″ (356cm) (day dress – remade from late ’30s/early ’40s fabric)
c. 1863 gold/blue silk: 176″ (447cm) (day dress w train)
c. 1863 blue silk: 179″ (455cm) (day dress w train)
c. 1863 brown (purple) silk: 195″ (495cm) (day dress w train)
c. 1863 brown, white, & red plaid silk: 255″ (648cm) 155″ (394cm) typo?? (Evening & day)
c. 1864 tan silk: 122″ (310cm) (day dress)
c. 1864 yellow plaid floral silk: 160″ (406cm) (day dress)
c. 1864 red/blue/purple silk: 164″ (416.5cm) (day dress)
1864-65 white/red sheer checked wool/silk: 186″ (472cm) (fancy day dress) CiD 214
c. 1865 red and white striped cotton: 120″ (305cm) (wrapper)
c. 1865 brown silk: 120″ (305cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1865 brown and cream windowpane silk/wool: 130″ (330cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1865 brown/green plaid silk?: 137″ (348cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1865 blue/white striped cotton: 156″ (397 cm) (less formal day dress)
c. 1865 blue silk: 196″ (498cm) (evening gown – remade from 1840s)
1865-67 pink alpaca: 156″ (396cm) (evening dress) CiD 220
c. 1866 blue silk: 180″ (457cm) (day dress w train)
c. 1866 ivory-grey silk: 205″ (521 cm) (day dress w train)
1867 green/blue plaid silk: 143″ (363cm) (wrapper)
1867 green silk faille: 180″ (457cm) (day dress w train)
c. 1868 yellow and blue wool/cotton: 168.5″ (428cm) (wrapper)
c.1868 green silk: 132″ (335cm) (day dress?)
c. 1868 blue silk: 152″ (386cm) (evening dress)

1857-60 crinoline: 90″ (229cm) CiD 197 | Chastleton
1857-60 crinoline: 70″ (178cm) CiD 198 | Personal collection of F. Norris
1857-60 crinoline: 77″ (196cm) CiD 198 | F. Norris
c. 1857-60 crinoline: 71″ (180cm)
1857-65 down-quilted petticoat: 80″ (203cm) CiD 200
1864-67 red flannel crinoline: 81″ (206cm) CiD 201 | F. Norris
1864-67 cage crinoline: 116″ (295cm) CiD 202
c. 1865 quilted petticoat: 72″ (183cm)

1869-75 (early bustle/EB)

1869 brown/cream gingham cotton: 150″ (381cm) (work dress; worn 1869, probably made earlier) DAR Museum 96.59
EB brown and black silk: 115″ (292cm) (wrapper)
c.1872 blue wool/cotton: 120″ (305cm) (day dress)
c. 1872-4 grey & burgundy silk: 120″ (305cm) (evening dress; missing its overskirt)
c. 1875 white and pink cotton or wool: 137″ (348cm)

1873-75 cotton crinolette: 86″ (218cm) (evening dress) CiD 234 | Chastleton

1876-1883 (natural form/NF)

early NF cage crinolette: 115″ (292cm)
c. 1878 grey and yellow silk: 112″ (284cm) (not including separate train; day dress)

NF black silk coat: 78″ (198cm)
late NF quilted petti: 78″ (198cm)

1884-1889 (late bustle/LB)

LB black silk & velvet: 102″ (259cm) (day dress)
late 1880s brown silk: lining 82.5″ (209.5cm); skirt 95″ (241cm) (day dress)
late 1880s yellow: 81″ (206cm) (day dress)
late 1880s red velvet: 74″ (188cm) (dinner dress)
late 1880s? black silk: 160″ (dinner dress; this could be 1890s…)

LB red cotton petticoat: 104″ (264cm) (possibly an underskirt)

1890-1907

c.1890? gold figured silk: 122″ (310cm) (day/dinner dress)
c. 1892 gold figured silk: 122″ (310cm) (evening gown) (different from above lol)
1892-3 yellow-green figured silk: 140″ (356cm) (evening gown) CiD 264 | Coll. of Nora Hawker
c. 1893 white cotton: 180″ (457cm) (dressing gown)
c. 1893 striped silk: 224″ (569cm) (day dress)
1894 yellow printed cotton: 192″ (488cm) (possibly evening?) CiD 281 | Chastleton
c. 1894 black floral silk: 154″ (391cm) (day dress)
Late 1890s white cotton: 132″ (335cm) (tea gown/wrapper)
c. 1897 black/purple silk: 114″ (290cm) (day dress)
c. 1898 ivory silk organza: 150″ (381cm) (day dress)
c. 1898 pink and black wool/cotton: 180″ (457cm) (day dress)
c. 1898 purple silk: 168″ (427cm) (day dress)
c. 1898 burgundy silk: 129″ (328cm) (day dress)
c. 1899 black silk: 216″ (549cm) (day dress)
c. 1900 white linen petticoat & skirt: 104″ (264cm) & 192″ (488cm) (summer day wear)
c. 1902 colorful wool: 116″ (wrapper)
1903 ivory silk: 180″ (457cm) (evening wear) | Hillwood 48.8.1-2
c. 1903 blue silk: 172″ (437cm) (day dress)
c. 1905 white cotton skirt: 120″ (305cm) (summer day dress)
c.1905 white printed silk: 142″ (361cm) (day dress)
c. 1907? striped cotton: 112″ (284cm) (summer day dress)
c. 1907 copper silk: 80″ (203cm) (evening gown?)
1908 purple-blue silk: 212″ (538cm) (dinner dress) CiD 317 | Hawker

c.1890 blue silk cape: 105″ (267cm) (evening wear)
c. 1893 black printed petticoat: 96″ (244cm)

1908-1915

c. 1908 grey silk: 80″ (203cm) (day dress; half mourning?)
c. 1908 brown silk/wool: 130″ (330cm) (day dress)
c. 1909 tan silk: 65″ (165cm) (day dress) CiD 326 | Coll. J. Procter
c. 1910 grey silk: 93″ (216 cm) (day dress)
c. 1912 black silk: 74″ (188cm) (dinner dress)
1913 blue silk & cream lace: 65″ (165cm) underskirt, 52″ (132cm) hem (evening dress) CiD 379 | Bradfield
c.1913 black and pink silk: 78″ (198cm) (day dress? unsure)
c. 1913 white linen: 50″ (127cm) (summer day dress)
c. 1913-14 white silk and lace: 60″ (152cm) (evening? unsure)
c. 1914 green silk faille & chiffon: 120″ (305cm) (day dress)
1914 blue floral silk: 47″ (119cm) (evening dress; hobble skirt style) CiD 348
c.1915 white net: 94″ (239cm) (summer day dress)

1915-1924

c. 1918 white linen: 43″ (109cm) (summer day dress)
c. 1919 yellow silk?: 146″ (371cm) (day dress; tiered w ruffles; nfl)
1919 cream lace and silk: 62″ (157.5cm) (afternoon/evening dress) CiD 352
1921 purple silk for a young girl: 56″ (142cm) (afternoon dress)
1920s pink silk chiffon: 42″ (107cm) lining, 74″ (188cm) outer (robe de style, nfl (not floor length))
1920s pale pink chiffon: 158″ (401cm) (evening dress, nfl)
1920s beige silk: 78″ (198cm) (evening dress)
1920s black & pink silk: 69″ (175cm) (evening dress?, nfl)
1920s ivory silk: 64″ (162.5cm) (evening dress, nfl)
1920s ivory silk?: 190″ (483cm) (day dress, pleated, nfl)
c. 1924 black and silver net: 45″ (114cm) (evening?; tunic-style, nfl) CiD 362 | Bradfield

1925-1930

1925 pink silk: 40″ (102cm) (evening, nfl) | Museum of London 55.68a
1925-28 black silk: 70″ (178cm) (evening?, nfl) | Australian Dress Register 360
1926-7 yellow-green silk: 78″ (198cm) (evening dress, nfl) CiD 365| Coll. of Mrs. M. J. King
1926-7 pink silk: 55″ (140cm) (evening dress, nfl) CiD 365 | King
1927-28 tan silk: 46″ (117cm) (evening dress underskirt, nfl) CiD 367 | Bradfield
1927-1932 yellow velvet: 89″ (226cm) (day dress, nfl) | Hillwood 48.59
1930 green silk: 150″ (381cm) (evening dress) CiD 367 | Bradfield
c. 1930 black silk: 155″ (394cm) (evening dress) | Museums Victoria SH 880854

 

Notations:

‘c.’ means ‘circa’. It is used here to mean both “approximately” and “within five years of”. (i.e. “c. 1830” could be “probably 1830 or 31” or “between 1825-35”.) I would have liked to be more specific, but there’s only so much I can do in this format! I did my best to narrow it down. In several cases, I dated dresses differently than they had been described on eBay listings, etc., so don’t be confused if they differ. Please feel free to contact me if you disagree with the proposed date or want to know why I dated it as such. Anything without a ‘c.’ is either an official museum date (that I saw nothing wrong with) or a garment with known provenance. However, if a museum gave a 10 year span, I gave it a ‘c.’ date right in the middle.

CiD= Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield. Dresses are held in the Snowshill collection of the UK National Trust unless otherwise stated.

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, DC.

Qkr = Quaker. Quaker dress was restrained in various ways, and may not be an indication of what was generally considered fashionable.

nfl = not floor length.

???** = the numbers are listed, but I can’t puzzle my head around what they equal. Valuable as an extant work dress though.

Other resources:

Jennifer Rosbrugh has written a helpful guide on sizing one’s petticoats in relation to hem length and circumference here!

 

Last updated 23 Apr. 2019 – DAR collections added

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2 thoughts on “Hem Circumference Resource

  1. I’m the curator of costume and textiles at the DAR Museum in Washington DC–we are in the process of putting our collection online, and I try to always include hem circumference and other construction details (how many panels in skirt, how many are selvage to selvage vs gores etc). if you search Object Name = dress in our advanced search you can see what’s up so far. I’m mostly through our 1800-30 dresses and over half way through 1830-70 and am trying to get to earlier and later as time allows. collections.dar.org is the website or go to dar.org and go to museum dropdown menu and go to Collection/Search the collection.–

    Like

    • Fantastic! Thank you for letting me know. I will go through the collection over the next day or two and add in everything that you have. Is there a specific way that you would prefer I cite within my list, or will “DAR Museum, [accession number]” do?

      Like

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