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Winslow Homer (1831-1910)
Butterflies (The Butterfly Girl), 1878
Oil on canvas mounted on masonite
Friends of William F. Brooks - 1950.03

By the end of the 1870s, costume became close fitting and confining. The draped and bustled skirts made movement difficult at best. At no other time in the history of dress has clothing so resembled body armor. Ironically, it was at this same time that young ladies were encouraged to partake in refined outdoor exercise such as croquet, catching butterflies, or tending gardens. Costume had to be adapted to allow for freedom of movement. The woman in Butterflies wears a fashionable bustled skirt. The fullness of the skirt is pulled to the back to draw the dress more tightly across the front. The addition of accessories to complete the outfit is another concession to fashion. The absence of a train on the skirt should be noted here; it would have been otherwise common in day dress.