Elizabeth Pitkin Porter's Wedding Dress
Elizabeth Pitkin Porter (1719-1798) of East Hartford is the first documented wearer of this patterned silk dress, which is a brocaded silk woven in several colors, on a patterned ground weave. The large, dense floral design seen on the fabric suggests a mid-late 1730s date. It is possible, therefore, that Elizabeth’s gown was not brand new for her own wedding (Elizabeth and Moses were married in 1742), but perhaps a dress made up from an earlier event for herself or another woman. The use of shading adds a three-dimensional quality to the floral design, achieving a more naturalistic effect. The fabric is likely English, though the narrow width of the fabric (at about 15 ¾” wide) suggests a possible Dutch origin.
In its current construction, the gown more closely dates to about 1770. Pitkin was one of a very small number of Connecticut River Valley inhabitants who had the resources to afford an expensive fabric like a patterned silk. As such, the gown would have been re-made for its wearer as fashion changed.
- Lazaro, David E., "Fashion and Frugality: English Patterned Silks in Connecticut River Valley Women's Dress, 1660-1800," DRESS, 33 (2006), 57-77.