In the summers of 1767 and 1769, Martha Washington ventured to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia to take its famed mineral waters. Her daughter, Patsy, suffered from epileptic seizures and accompanied her mother and step-father on the second trip to the springs in the ultimately vain hope that the waters might heal her. To protect her modesty, Mrs. Washington wore a bathing gown. Constructed in the same manner as a shift, the traditional undergarment worn by women, it was additionally fitted with lead weights at its hem to ensure the gown did not rise up improperly. The gown is a rare surviving example of Mrs. Washington's clothing and eighteenth-century bathing garments.


Blue and white checked linen bathing gown; the gown is constructed in the form of a shift; the main body of the gown is cut from a single piece of linen; sleeves are gathered near the shoulder and set in with a gusset at the bottom of the arm's eye; two linen twill tape ties are sewn at the top edges of the placket and ¼" of needle lace fills the bottom of the placket; the triangular sections of fabric added on either side of the skirt are composed of several different pieces of linen; several of the pieces of linen used to fill out the back of the gown are taken from a slightly coarser, lighter blue checked linen than that used for the main body of the gown; four circular lead weights are sewn into square pockets just above the hem of the gown at its edges on the back and front; all seams and edges are finished.


c. 1767-1769



Linen, lead


Overall (H x W x D): 52 in. x 52 1/4 in. x 1/4 in. (132.08 cm x 132.72 cm x 0.64 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland 1894

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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