The DeGriselles Dress Gets a Facelift   

The DeGriselles family, a French aristocratic family with ties to Napoleon Bonaparte, settled in Dubuque in 1856, and today we have a number of artifacts in our collection tied to the family as well as potentially tied to Bonaparte himself. (We may indeed have a lock of Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair in our collection, but that is a story for another day.)

The DeGriselles dress, as we call it, is currently undergoing conservation thanks to the generosity of our donors. The dress was worn by Louise Phillippine Matilda DeGriselles at her 1840 marriage to Francois Eugene Valin DeGriselles in France.

Matilda was the daughter of General Phillip and Theresa Perreau (DeGriselles being their aristocractic title that was passed down to Matilda and her husband). General Perreau served in Napoleon’s Army and after his death, the family lost their fortune (spoiler, Bonaparte lost, so his friends and allies lost out too).

Eugene and Matilda immigrated to the United States with their children and Matilda’s mother, Theresa. They settled in Dubuque County, bringing with them an assortment of belongings, including the dress currently being conserved (and the family’s dog—which still resides in our collection today and is also a story for another day).

The dress was passed down through the family and worn last for a 1940 wedding by a descendant of Matilda’s. To get an idea of the meticulous care that goes into conserving a dress of this age, we hope you enjoy the following video. We also look forward to showing you the final results in the near future!

dress conservation video