Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Fridge List for Fall 2019

Kimberly Alexander 
Upcoming Talks for Fall 2019:

Treasures Afoot: Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era 
and
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 https://pilgrimhall.org/ce_library_archives.htm

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 (collection.cooperhewitt.org), 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: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18668091/

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. (www.pilgrimhall.org) 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.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Leverett Family Petticoat Returns to Colonial Williamsburg

The Leverett family quilted petticoat, reproduced from a pattern created by pricking the design onto muslin, has been returned to the makers at the Margaret Hunter Shop, Milliners and Mantuamakers at Colonial Williamsburg. 
The pricking was in the collection of Massachusetts Historical Society, along with a written description (left by a family member) which noted it was a pale blue silk with silk thread used for the quilting, which gave it the impression of light ‘tissue.’ The recreation of the petticoat was a collaborative project between the Massachusetts Historical Society and Colonial Williamsburg, and was created for display in the exhibit entitled Fashioning the New England Family, on view from October 2018-April 2019. 
Fashioning the New England Family, www.masshist.org
Mannequins by Astrida Schaeffer
It is now safely in the hands of Mistress Whitacre, where it will be used for educational and interpretive purposes. It was entirely hand sewn by the milliners and mantua-makers.
For information on the project, see: 

For information on the exhibition, see:

For an interview with Jared Bowen of Open Studio on WGBH:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Latest in Mourning Wear: Advice from Harper’s Bazar, 1901


“Crepe is more fashionable than ever” notes the November 1901 edition of Harper’s Bazar. “House gowns and dinner gowns made entirely of crepe and in the princesse style are exceedingly becoming, while there is permitted on crepe dinner gowns a trimming of the dull jet passementerie.”

Making reference to the fact that “all of England is in mourning” –Queen Victoria died on the 22ndof January, 1901 -- the author observed that it is no wonder that there was a plethora of choices of style and textiles available on the market. The writer also notes that after the first expenditure of the dress and appropriate accessories, it is possible to get along with “fewer gowns than when wearing colors.”

I recently found this volume of Harper's
in fine condition at the Avenue Victor Hugo Books in Lee, NH (May 2019).

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Mrs. Catherine Donovan, Dressmaker to the NYC Elite

Irish–born dressmaker to New York’s elite, Mrs. Catherine Donovan (1826?-1906), studied fashion in Paris. Donovan created her gowns in her fashionable shop and showroom in New York. By 1900, she was located on Madison Avenue. In addition to her designs, which were heavily influenced by French couturiers, she also sold gowns by Worth and Pingat. In her use of materials and her design idioms, she favored the historical references employed by her French contemporaries.



Numerous evening, and afternoon dresses, and ball gowns survive in North American museum collections, and they frequently come up in auctions as well. It is clear that Donovan was able to provide a wide variety of styles for her discriminating and affluent customers.

As noted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
“After her death in 1906, Irish-born Catherine Donovan was described by the New York Times as "the pioneer dressmaker of the 400," for dressing New York's social elite known as the "400." She owned a building on Madison Avenue at 40th Street, where she sold imported gowns from leading Paris couturiers such as Charles Frederick Worth and Emile Pingat. At least once, her employees' baggage was seized at U.S. customs on suspicion of smuggling. It was common practice for seized goods to be auctioned publicly, and in 1893 over five hundred people attended an auction of Worth, Pingat, and other gowns seized from Donovan.”
This evening ensemble (bodice and skirt), c. 1885, looks to France for inspiration, as well as historical references from the 17thand 18thcentury. The ensemble features a flowered, striped pale blue silk moiré, pale blue silk satin, and ecru lace at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/176664.html)

Here, a red and ivory checked cotton dress, complete with ivory cotton dickie, c. 1885 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A two-piece ball gown, c1890s, metallic silk brocade trimmed in cutwork velvet and cord, skirt pleated at center back, hem lined in lace. Courtesy, Whitaker Auctions (https://whitakerauction.smugmug.com/Spring2012-2/Clothing/ID-247/i-7BhBgWq/O)

Fortunately, her name and address is stamped on her petershams, providing an opportunity to trace her various locations from the 1880s through the early 1900s-- "Mrs. C. Donovan/315.5th Ave./N.Y.," "Mrs. C. Donovan/245 5th Ave./New York," or "Mrs. C Donovan & Co/280 Madison Ave./ New York."