Tussah silk dress, ca. 1855

Contributed by Maine Historical Society

Tussah silk dress, ca. 1855

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This record was added to Maine Memory Network through the efforts of a student at Southern Maine University.


In the mid-1800s, silks in the United States were largely imported. Chinese imports of the period included textured tussah silk, sometimes called tussar or senshaw silk. A light weight silk widely used for Indian saris, tussah has a distinctive golden sheen.

This mustard gold silk damask (patterned) dress includes an elongated floral, leaf and twig motif. The fabric, likely Chinese, is quite distinct from imported European designs of the time. It is a reminder that, probably thanks to local sea captains, some Maine ladies received lengths of Chinese silks made for the Western market.

Dating from the mid-1850s, the dress shows evidence of alteration. The complex tiered ruffles on the sloping shoulders and opening of the bodice were added at a later date.

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About This Item

  • Title: Tussah silk dress, ca. 1855
  • Creation Date: circa 1855
  • Subject Date: circa 1855
  • State: ME
  • Media: silk, cotton, wool
  • Dimensions: 143.510 cm x 365.125 cm
  • Local Code: 1999.236.011
  • Collection: Costume collection
  • Object Type: Physical Object

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For more information about this item, contact:

Maine Historical Society
485 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-1822 x230

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