Lola's Ball Gown

Lola Elda Del Sesto (Farrone) was born on November 01, 1909, she was the wife of Rhode Island governor Christopher Del Sesto. According to the Rhode Island Senate Resolution from June 12, 2001, Mrs. Del Sesto was raised in the Silver Lake section of Providence, she graduated from Commercial High School and during the time her husband worked at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC she attended classes at George Washington University. She loved to read and was interested in music, history, and fashion.  “She enjoyed being the state’s official hostess, and was often described as a fashion plate”. She had a passion for designing clothes and also had a collection of about four dozen hats.
Her interest in music led her to serve as a board member of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, and the Chopin Club. She also served as president of both the literary group Cirolo Petrarca and of the Dantesca Society. Mrs. Del Sesto was a chair of the Italian Heritage Festival and the Florentine Relief Fund. She was also named an honorary trustee of Johnson and Wales University. Her husband Christopher Del Sesto (March 10, 1907 – December 23, 1973) served as Rhode Island governor from 1959 to 1961. During the time of his election, Del Sesto became the first Republican to serve as governor of Rhode Island in twenty years. During his administration he implemented an accelerated program of highway construction, he liberalized state aid for education to cities and towns and established a state scholarship program.
Del Sesto’s Family Christmas Card, 1956

picture of Christopher Del Sesto with president Eisenhower
Campaign poster of Del Sesto with president Eisenhower.
During Governor Del Sesto’s inaugural ball on January 01, 1959, Mrs. Del Sesto wore a pale pink satin (is the name of a basic weave and a large class of silk fabrics, satin weave produces the most lustrous silk fabric) ball gown which she donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1987. The gown has Chinese brocading of cream, pale blues, and browns in bamboo and small cherry blossoms, it has a straight skirt long skirt with asymmetrical draping, a bodice that crosses over at the front. The gown gathers at the back with a bow, there is also a zip up the back and a wrap V neck. The lining is stiff pink and plain weave. Dressmaker Antoinette Cloutier made the dress for Mrs. Del Sesto to wear to the inaugural ball. Along with the gown Mrs. Del Sesto also wore a pale pink silk satin hair ornament which featured feathers and ribbons and a pair of off-white elbow length kid gloves with pearl buttons at the wrist.
The gown was very much in line with the fashions of the 1950s, and we can see that reflected in its color, pale and pastel tones were very popular at the time. The gown also accentuates an hourglass figure which was the dominating look of the 50s, with a more mature style of cinched-in waistlines and accentuated hips and busts. The gown’s hyper-feminine style and floral patterns were also very much of that time. When it came to accessories the gown also followed the 1950s trend of the long, elbow-length gloves which were used for formal and evening wear, paired with short-sleeved dresses or strapless gowns.
Clothing Catalogue from the 1950s
HF5465.Pg B65
Mrs. Del Sesto also donated other items made for her by Antoinette Cloutier, these items include a costume mask made out of eyeglasses, velvet, and net, which she wore to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Masked Costume Ball in 1960; a ball gown made with a lace overdress, which she also wore to the Philarmonic Masked Costume Ball; and a navy blue tea dress made out of silk faille with a pointed waistline.
Lola Elda Del Sesto passed away on June 5th, 2001 at the age of 91.
~ Debby de Afonseca, Collections and Research Intern

Bibliography: (2018). S 0991. [online] Available at [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018 (2018). Christopher Del Sesto. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018].
Denny, G. (1928). Fabrics and how to know them. Philadelphia [Pa.] & London.
 Bellatory. (2018). Fashion History—Women’s Clothing of the 1950s. [online] Available at [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018].
 Pearson, T. (2018). Clothes and men’s and ladies fashions in the 1950’s prices and examples. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018].

Further Reading:

  • Presley, A. B. (1998). Fifty Years of Change: Societal Attitudes and Women’s Fashions, 1900–1950. Historian The Historian, 60(2), 307-324. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1998.tb01396.x
  • Cumming, Valerie, C. W. Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington. The Dictionary of Fashion History, Berg, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84788-533-3
  • Samek, Susan M. “Uniformly Feminine: the “Working Chic” of Mainbocher.” Dress 20 (1993): p. 33–41.


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