Monday, March 21, 2016

The Reproduction of Garments from Sarah Williams 1738 Probate Inventory

Reproduction swatches flank the display and invite visitors to touch the textiles
One of the many engaging aspects of the The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery (a permanent exhibition area in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life) at Historic Deerfield, are four half-scale fashion or dress 'mannequins.' They are clothed in reproductions based on items found in the probate inventory of a young Deerfield woman, Sarah Williams (1716-1738), who died in 1738 at age 21. She was unmarried. Her headstone survives at the Old Deerfield Burying Ground.

The  model displaying "silk" (petticoat, open robe, stomacher) as they might have appeared from Sarah's garments.

Miss Williams came from a very wealthy family as may be seen by the number and type of garments listed in her probate inventory. Among the extensive list: one taffeta robe at 6 pounds; one damask robe at 3 pounds 15 shillings; one chintz robe; one calico robe; one silk quilt; one shalloon quilt and cloth cut for a riding habit and trimming. The reference to one riding hood indicated it was quite costly at 4 pounds 5 shillings. Her inventory also listed three pairs of stays: black, yellow and red. There are several references to unfinished garments or accessories perhaps indicating, in the case of  “cloth for a pocket” that Sarah was sewing the item just prior to her death. The range of items available to Miss Williams in the 1730s certainly calls into question long held mythologies regarding colonial dress.

The Gallery is comprised of four sections representing silk, wool, cotton and linen and the theme is carried through with the half scale mannequins.

Curated by Ned Lazaro, Collections Manager and Associate Curator of Textiles

For the full inventory, see

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