Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Student analysis of a Pucci dress, by Ta’Ron Jackson


T&CC 1982.43.5a,b – dress by Emilio Pucci, early 1970s

This post is part of our series featuring final student projects from our History of Costume and Textiles course.

My name is Ta’Ron Jackson. I am in my sophomore year in college. I fell in love with fashion my freshman year of high school. I always like to dress nice wherever I go even if it is just to run to the store, so I decided to start my clothing line called Lost All Feelings. The name sounds sad, but it defines the brand’s meaning, which is growing away from your past to create a better future. I loved designing clothes and making designs, but I wanted to take that a step further and sew my clothes. This led me to to the fashion design program at Jefferson University.

Analysis: Dress by Emilio Pucci, T&CC 1982.43.5a,b

The task we were given for our final project was to pick an object in the Textile and Costume Collection and play dress detective to figure out as much information about the piece as we could and then write a paper about it. For example, we had to find out what year it was made, how it was made, and if this piece could be found anywhere else.

The piece I chose to study for the project was an Emilio Pucci dress that was donated to the University in 1982.  After picking our pieces, we were able to have an up-close look at the item to discover as many details as we could. During that time, I was able to discover plenty of information about the dress, but it also brought some questions to mind.

I used the details of the dress to help me figure out the answers I was looking for. The dress is made out of 100% silk and features an all-over kaleidoscope-like print.  The neckline of the dress is one of the few spots in the dress that is faced in order to finish the edge and provide an additional layer as the fabric of the dress itself is very lightweight and flowy.  In the neckline there are five labels which gave me a good place to start. The labels found on the dress were cleaning instructions, the Pucci label, a Lord & Taylor store tag, the museum’s accession label, and the donor’s name.

These labels let me know where the dress was sold, the names of the donors, and the year the dress was made, which was the early 1970s. I was able to find the year of the dress by matching the Pucci label to the year that label was being produced and used. That would make the dress about 52 years old. Who ever knew labels could give so much information about a piece?

Moving into the print of the dress you notice that on the neckline and bottom of the bodice of the dress are borders filled with half circles. These borders can be seen repeated throughout the dress as the only repeating part of the print.  They serve to separate the larger patterned areas. The borders create a v-shaped neckline and can be found separating the bodice and skirt print, on the side seams, and at the hem. On each part of the dress, you notice that the print changes in some way making it an engineered print and not a repeating one. This information led me to believe this garment had to be piece printed before being sewn together because it would have been too difficult to print once the dress was fully sewn together.

While analyzing the stitching on the dress, I could tell that most of the dress was machine sewn, but places like the neckline, bottom of the sleeve, and hem at the bottom of the dress were hand sewn for a neater finish. This brings us to the last two locations you can find facing in the dress: the cuff of the sleeves and hem of the dress. That was done so those parts of the dress are more stable than the rest because the fabric is so light. Lastly, I found the dress had a small expensive detail that I have never seen before which was fabric covered snaps at the neckline (image at left). Covering the snaps with fabric makes them almost invisible.

After playing detective and analyzing the details of this beautifully made 52-year-old dress, I see why this historic Emilio Pucci garment still has relevance, and wearability, today.

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