May 11, 1851



Sun May 11th  Have been to church this afternoon. Did

not feel like going in the morning It rained

this forenoon but cleared off quite pleasant

after dinner and after church Oakes A, Orinthia

and I called at Mothers, carried her a poplin

dress that I purchased in Boston.

Have not read any to day. Oakes Lavinia & Orinthia

called on Ann Pool

One item that Evelina brought back from Boston was a poplin dress – ready-made, presumably, or perhaps made to order – that she bought for her mother. It had to have been an item that her mother, an elderly country woman, would never have purchased for herself. Hannah Lothrop Gilmore had spent a lifetime sewing her own garments.  She was also unlikely to board a wagon or carriage to go into Boston to shop. The ride from the farmhouse to church on Sundays was about as adventurous as she got. How kind of Evelina to treat her mother in this extravagant way.

Poplin was a popular cotton fabric in the nineteenth century. It was smooth, lightweight and finely woven, more refined than broadcloth, although they were not dissimilar in weave. Both were sturdy and today both are often used for men’s shirts. The dress on the left in the illustration above was a day-dress and probably similar in shape and weight to the poplin dress Evelina bought, perhaps with less trim. The undersleeves were a particular feature of women’s dresses right before the Civil War.

The dress on the right was not something that Evelina would have purchased for her mother, or even for herself at this stage in her life. It was an evening dress with a stylish flounced skirt that would have been entirely too “jeune fille” for old Mrs. Gilmore.

* Spring fashions from Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1851


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