Monday, December 27, 2021

Rachel Adams and Fragments of Her Embroidery, c. 1789

Tucked away safely in a dresser drawer in the Stone School Museum of the Newmarket Historical Society (New Hampshire) are several fragments of what were most likely bed hangings (the donor notes for a canopy bed), made of homespun, hand-woven linen and embroidered with delicate floral motifs, predominately in shades of blue.

The four small pieces of well-worn textiles were donated to the Historical Society on February 14th, 1968 by a descendant of the maker who “vouched for” its authenticity. The label which accompanied the gift notes that the textile was “spun, woven and worked by Rachel Adams of West Medway before her marriage. About 1789.” Her father was Revolutionary War officer, Captain Moses Adams.

Although there remain genealogical issues to work out, the details regarding the actual textile align – the use of small scale motifs and limited palette certainly reflect the visual aesthetics of the last quarter of the 18th century. Further, the tradition of ‘going to housekeeping’ meant that many females of the time created useful household items related to bedding to take into their new home after marriage.

All photos by the author; courtesy, Newmarket Historical Society


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Jacques Henri Lartigue & French Fashion, 1910s

Photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue captured the French elite at play - whether at motorcar racing or at fashionable promenades. 

His work capturing fashion may be seen in numerous examples, such as "Carriage Race Day, Auteuil, Paris, 1911"

Hats, gloves and beautifully designed silk dresses were on display. For a comparison, see a striped silk afternoon dress, c. 1912 by Jeanne Hallee - it is a perfect complement to Lartigue's photo from Race Day.

And more stripes – Paris street style in 1912, photo by Lartigue

Lartigue's images here capture a pre-WWI moment -- a world which will soon experience a crippling war and a devastating pandemic.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Fridge List for Fall 2019

Kimberly Alexander 
Upcoming Talks for Fall 2019:

Treasures Afoot: Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era 
Fashioning the New England Family

September 9, 7:00pm
Wiggin Memorial Library and Stratham Historical Society, Stratham, NH
Fashioning the 18th Century New England Family

September 28, 2:00pm
Massachusetts Historical Society 
Workshop/Free but registration required
Primary Sources for Fashion & Costume History Research
With Kimberly Alexander, University of New Hampshire and Sara Georgini, MHS
Antique textiles, images of historical figures, and material culture hold a wealth of information that can enrich personal stories, explain relationships, and contextualize the world that people occupied. However, these sources can seem daunting to explore. Two experts on fashion and material culture will guide you through unraveling the stories woven into history’s fabric. This workshop is part of MHS Remember Abigail programming, and Boston Fashion Week

October 1, 6:30pm
Malden Historical Society, Malden, MA
Shoes and Their Stories[part of the Elisha Converse  2020 Exploring the Industrial History of Malden series]

October 16, 7:00pm
Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA
“1 gowne 6 petticoats 1 pair body’s’: Dressing in Early New England

October 25-27
The Honourable Cordwainers' Company35th Annual General Meeting with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA
‘Shoes for the Southern Trade’: Northern Complicity & the Shoe Trade in the Early Republic

November 3, 1:00pm
Durham Historic Association
Buying Shoes and Purchasing Patriotism: The Politicization of Footwear, 1760s-1770s

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Child’s 18th Century Lace Stomacher

Carefully preserved in the collections of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA. is a diminutive stomacher (Accession #PHM111A). Made for a member of the Standish family, it is 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the widest point. Triangular in shape, it is made of needle lace insets with a bobbin lace edge. Similar triangular shaped stomachers were an essential component of 18th century women’s dress, serving both to cover stays, and to embellish open robes or gowns. They were easily removable via quick stitching or straight pins.

This charming piece may have been owned by Hannah Standish between 1703-1774, although the maker and wearer are not known.

Many thanks to PHM Director, Donna Curtin, for her assistance.

For additional information, contact

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Textile Portrait in Purple and White, c. 1830

I am so taken with this elegant portrait of a fashionable sitter, c. 1830. I have a fragment only-- one section of the repeat. The original textile from the Cooper Hewitt (, shows two women set within decorative medallions. 
Seen from waist up, these portrait busts are carried out in purple and white cotton, with the engraving done on a plain weave. There is an emphasis on their delicate features, and the latest on-trend dresses, with their voluminous sleeves, and hairstyles for 1830. It would not be surprising if they were based on actual portraits or taken from contemporary fashion plates. I am hopeful a reader may be able to identify the source.
What is especially interesting about the fragment in my study collection, is that, unlike the extant example at the Cooper Hewitt, its was repurposed for a light weight quilt or coverlet as some slightly later time. Although somewhat faded likely due to exposure to light, the piece provides an opportunity to see the hand- quilting up close, and to peek at the cotton batting which is falling away. Underneath is left a ghost of the original portrait, gazing out from her cotton enclosure.

 For an example of the original textile, see:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Brocaded Silk Shoes: James Adams, London Shoemaker, 1770s

I viewed these elegant court pumps from the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, in Plymouth, MA. ( on my summer research road trip in 2018. They are stunners. 
Vibrant, with high quality finish work, these c.1770s brocaded silk buckle shoes exhibit a high Italian heel, oval toe and pattern matched heels & toes. There is evidence of multiple buckle piercings on straps/lachets; they may have been wedding shoes. Note the snippet of the brocade placed on the underside of the upper portion of the tongue - a special visual 'pop' for the wearer.

One shoe features a paper label, identifying the shoemaker as James Adams at the ‘shoe warehouse,’ 224 High Street, Borough, London. Adams is mentioned in Wakefield’s Merchant and Tradesman’s General Directory for London from 1793. 
The accession number is 1373.3a,b

Thank you to curator Rebecca Griffin, and the staff of the Pilgrim Hall Museum for their kindly assistance.