The Tredwell Costume Collection comprises more than 400 articles of clothing, primarily women’s dresses and their accompanying chemisettes, collars, undersleeves, and petticoats. The core of the collection is a remarkable 39 dresses documented to have been owned and worn by the women of the family. Many are outstanding examples of the 19th-century dressmaker’s art, composed of fine and delicate fabrics and ornamentation.
Currently on display in Eliza Tredwell’s bedroom: a one-piece spring and summer dress, 1859-1864, made of cream-colored sheer muslin with woven cream stripes and a printed black, tan, and red floral pattern. Printing with synthetic aniline dyes, which were discovered and initially produced in 1856, was a less costly way to replicate the look of more expensive, more intricately woven fabrics. This dress, because of its fragile condition, is rarely exhibited.
Of note, this dress is documented in the Index of American Design (IAD) at the National Gallery of Art (image to right). The IAD, a program of the New Deal Federal Art Project, was formed in 1935 to illustrate through watercolor renderings the history of American design in the applied and decorative arts.