Purple velvet floor-length dress attributed to Elizabeth Keckly
Original Author: Probably Elizabeth Keckly, dressmaker; Hugh Talman, photographer
Created: ca. 1861 dress; twenty-first century photograph
Medium: Skirt and bodice ensemble

Velvet Skirt and Bodice Probably Made by Elizabeth Keckly

This purple velvet skirt and daytime bodice is believed to have been made by Elizabeth Keckly, a skilled dressmaker who had been born enslaved. This outfit was worn by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln during the Washington winter social season of 1861–1862. Both pieces of the outfit are piped with white satin, and the bodice features mother-of-pearl buttons. Though the lace collar is from the period, it was not original to the ensemble. The dressmaker made an additional matching bodice for evening wear that is not depicted here. Keckly served in the White House as a dressmaker and confidante to Mary Lincoln during the American Civil War (1861–1865).