Victoria Mansion is pleased to have a pure-dye silk taffeta dress and jacket ensemble from our collection featured in the Maine Historical Society’s current exhibition, World War I and the Maine Experience. The exhibition, which opened February 3 and runs through early June, celebrates the centennial of America’s entrance in World War I, specifically honoring Maine’s role in the Great War. Although little is known about the dressmaker, the ensemble is one of three known surviving examples made from silk manufactured at the Haskell Silk Company, which operated in Westbrook from 1874 to about 1930.
The dress originally belonged to a Mrs. Amy Goff Gray of Westbrook, though little else is known as to how the dress became a part of the Mansion’s collection. It is known, however, that J.R. Libby, the second occupant of the Mansion, sold Haskell silk in his dry goods store in Portland. The remarkable quality of the hundred year old silk is a testament to the Haskell Silk Company’s guarantee that each length of fabric would “not to break, crock or shift.” The peplum jacket and full skirt represents the military influence seen even in women’s clothing during the early years of WWI. Haskell sold millions of yards of silk to stores and garment makers nationwide until the company folded in 1930.