Bronte clothing ,the Brown gown ponderings

This was the first dress I examined and a very pleasant surprise as it’s in very good condition and actually quite pretty Its a rich chestnut dark brown and good fabric 

I am not sure which sister this gown belonged to  ,I had thought before I viewed it that it belonged to Emily as it’s quite narrow skirted and Emily is known to have worn narrow skirted gowns   and it does seem very like one would imagine Emily wearing.Its also clearly for someone taller than Charlotte  ,but  I cant help but feel it might have belonged to  another of the sisters at least as some point because the velvet hemline seems odd ,perhaps Anne

while in good condition does show more signs of actual use ,possibly some pin marks ,

and  hem repairs and alterations .I think this is suggestive of  regualr wear but for genteel  “work” I feel it has probably been lengthened by adding the broad velvet band around the hem ,there’s also marks that look like there was perhaps a pintuck that was unpicked to lengthen the gown .Perhaps it was passed along from one sister to another  or perhaps it was a hand me down ,, given to the sisters by a friend ,or employer?

To me it seemed like a gown  made and worn for  work either at home or elsewhere .Its seemed to shout governess or teachers  gown ,Its plain but of decent quality dark fabric. .The trim helps disguise the  closure and may have also been used to help cover up any signs of wear or alterations.Maybe the sleeves ruching was a way to disguise and adjust  the wide sleeves popular in the 1830s and which Emily carried on wearing long after they went out of fashion,.Ruching uses a lot of fabric unruched the sleeves would be quite wide .The gown is also earlier than Charlottes gowns ,higher waisted and probably late 1830s early 1840s

Brown alongside Grey was a colour of choice for governesses, while black is the colour often described in novels and paintings  ,black was considered as less than ideal because many people disliked seeing  people dressed in the colour when not in mourning.

I think maybe it was Anns which  passed to Emily and was lengthened with the velvet  or maybe Emily damaged the hem walking and added some left over fabric.I do wonder why a self coloured gown would be worn in the parsonage while Emily was keeping house ,I also wondered if she had gowns passed along to her ,after all she wouldnt be earning money and would be reliant on any allowance given her by Patrick to buy clothing

There is a small mystery attached to the gown the collar.

,the little “lace” collar is  fine black net that was in the process of being embroidered ,one side is completly finished but the other side has only the edges stitched  and the collar remains half finished.Ithought at first someone must have got fed up of the detailed work and given up but then it made no sense and I  wondered why ,,why not finish a collar on what was obviously a well used gown.Was Anne Working on the collar while working but discarded it when she made the decision to hand in notice and put away the governess gown in favour of prettier dresses or was Anne or Emily working on it while she was ill and forced to stop when death intervened?or was it a later owner who began the collar then decided not to wear the gown that had been given them by  the increasingly well-known “Miss Bronte ” but store it away safely for future display.I am hoping to inquire further into the gowns history.



It was lovely to see this lesser known gown used on “To walk invisible” on and the actress playing Emilyit does make me lean more towards it being Emilys .


About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
This entry was posted in 19thc, brontes, history, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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