Object of the Day

Three-piece second-day dress, brick-red wool, 1882

Mary Matilda Hancock and Frederick Wm. Watkin were married in New York City in 1882. This three-piece, brick-red, wool dress – a shaped-fitted, basque bodice with pointed peplum, a long gored skirt with overlapping ruffles, and a pouffed overskirt – would have made a wonderful impression when Mr. and Mrs. Watkin embarked on their honeymoon.

This three-piece dress was part of Mary’s trousseau. The word trousseau came from the French word ‘trousse’ which means ‘bundle.’ The Trousseau originated as a bundle of clothing and personal possessions the bride brought with her to her new home. In America, a girl might begin preparing her trousseau from an early age, saving treasured items (including clothing and household linens made by herself or given to her) in a Hope Chest to be stored for her married life. Among a bride’s trousseau would be the dresses and lingerie she would wear right after the wedding and on her honeymoon.

A Second-day dress was a semi-formal dress the new bride would wear when the newlyweds were visiting relatives and friends, or receiving guests in their new home. The second-day dress or suit was usually more modest in style and ornamentation than the wedding gown. It would be worn on special occasions and Sunday church services for years to come. A bride might also wear a going-away suit when she and her husband left for their honeymoon, serving the same function as the Second-day dress.

Original metal buttons have a moon and stars motif.