A Look Back: Cincinnati’s Dressmaking History

In 1917, the days of the Cincinnati dressmaker were beginning to wane. But for a wedding, a girl wanted something special, and Ruth Willey turned to Josephine Kasselman, who created this silk and lace dress for Ruth’s October wedding to William A. Schreiber II. In the era that coincided with the flourishing of the decorative arts here, dressmaking boomed as well, with as many as 1,553 seamstresses listed in the 1897 city directory. Society life, with its rounds of balls and debutante season, demanded a closet full of appropriate gowns. You can see Josephine’s artistry in this dress—she’s mimicked the flowers that appear in the lace in a dimensional accent on the bodice. It’s a thoughtful detail, added by a woman who knew the value of her art.

See more historical images in our History of Cincinnati in 50 Objects gallery.

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