Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Georgian Vignette

Fancy a little Sunday tea with this glam Georgian couple - 1760s style?

Peering into this fabulous vignette makes one feel a trifle voyeuristic, inspecting the sumptuous clothing, the contents of the tea table, the interior architecture and palette. Peeking into the room, we observe how the 'quality' lived.  I will always have a spot in my heart for the period room and the educative value of placing items in context. 

Do pass the marmalade!

This lovely ensemble is brought to you by @MFA Boston

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rachel Hartwell's Belle Époque Evening Dress

This frothy, feminine 1890s Belle Époque evening dress was worn by Rachel Hartwell (Pfeiffer). According to a family note, included with the dress, it was purchased with money she earned from teaching school. It is in the Hartwell Clark collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS). [1]

The bodice is an effusive affair of lace, silk, chiffon, and multi colored beads, while the skirt is simple but with a subtle pink stipe running through the silk (impossible to pick up with my phone camera) and a ruffled hem with pink silk peeping out. 
It was the perfect ensemble for a young, stylish unmarried woman. [2] Rachel married in 1896, and the MHS has her London-made wedding gown in their collection, the subject of a future post.
The evening dress is in need of conservation and is currently being evaluated by an experienced textile conservator.

Rachel Hartwell (1868-1905) was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA and attended Wellesley College. She graduated in 1891. While taking classes at Harvard in the summer of 1892, she met her future husband, George Pfeiffer. They were married 28 December 1896 and traveled Europe extensively. She died on 28 January 1905 in childbirth, leaving behind the couple’s only child, Hilda. She was 37 years of age.

Stay tuned for more to come on this, and other garments, from the Hartwell-Clark collection.

Many thanks to MHS Curator, Anne Bentley, and the MHS staff for their ongoing assistance.

1.     The Hartwell-Clark collection is currently unprocessed. For additional information, see:
2.     For more on 1890s fashion, see:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Snappy Victorian Button Boots by Atelier Louette-Finner

Fun, fresh and contemporary low-heeled button boots, circa late 1870s-1880s, by Belgian shoe and bootmakers, atelier Louette-Finner. The black and white check upper contrast with the black lower, giving the appearance of a spat or overshoe. It is the use of the checked textile clad heel which sets the boots apart, adding a visual flourish and illustrating why the firm excelled in design. The heel softens the more masculine style.  The boots are in the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum and on view in ‘Fashion Victims’ (through January 2017;

The shoe concern exhibited at a number of international expositions, including the 1867 Paris International. Their shoes may be found in other collections, such as the Centraal Museum.  
Again, atelier Louette-Finner adds their own design flare to two pairs of 1870s women’s shoes.

A New Hampshire Man Gives Thanks: Samuel Lane (1718-1806)

A New Hampshire Man Gives Thanks: Samuel Lane (1718-1806)

Deacon Samuel Lane (1718-1806) was a tanner and a cordwainer (or shoemaker); he was 75 when he wrote the following in his daybook. His house, barn and millpond survive in Stratham, NH. 

On Public Thanksgiving Day Morning November 21, 1793, Lane wrote:

As I was Musing on my Bed being awake as Usual before Day-light: recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for which I ought to be thankfull this day; some of which I have Noted, viz.....

The life and health of myself and my family, and also of so many of my children, grandchildren and great grand children...

For my Bible, and many other good and useful books, Civil and Religious Priviledges, for the ordinances of the gospel; and for my minister.

For my land, house and barn and other buildings...for my wearing clothes to keep me warm...For my Cattle, Sheep & Swine & other Creatures, for my support.

For my corn, wheat, rye, grass, hay; wool, flax; syder, Apples, Pumpkins... For my clock & watch to measure my passing time by Day and by Night...

For my Lether, Lamp oyl & Candles, Husbandry Utensils, & other tools of every sort.

Excerpt: Brown, Jerald E. The Years of the Life of Samuel Lane, 1718-1806: A New Hampshire Man and His World. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000. Donna-Belle Garvin, Editor. For purchase, see:,-1718-1806-A

Courtesy, New Hampshire Historical Society

For additional images of almanack pages, Lane's tools, family furniture and additional sources, follow link below: 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Breathtaking Bespoke Boots, c. 1890s

Oh my! I have written about these bodacious boots before (Here), but last week had the opportunity to view them in person as part of the “Fashion Victims” exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, on view through January 2017. (
Note the sculptured heel; soft velvet pile paired with the smooth, gold leather
While they are visually arresting in published photos, seeing them up close was a very different experience. The level of artisanry, the luxury of the materials and the whimsy found in the overall design, is exceptional.
As noted by the Curator, Elizabeth Semmelhack, the gold kid leather appliqué and velvet are 'erotically charged' and they resemble a stockinged leg. Even a glimpse beneath a skirt would have been tantalizing. They are most likely of Swedish or German make, from c.1890s.

One wonders if these bespoke boots were ordered by a specific client or were perhaps ‘show off’ piece meant for display at an exposition.  In any event, they are truly stunning. I hope you enjoy the photos I captured during my visit.

All photographs by Kimberly Alexander; courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Pocketbook For Benjamin Stuart, 1753

This vibrant crewel pocketbook was made for Benjamin Stuart of Boston and is dated 1753. It is held in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society ( The pocketbook features a brightly hued pastoral view with vining flowers, bird, and goats. Several large blossoms catch the eye. The wool thread is worked on linen, and features a dazzling interior, lined with silk. The wool threads have remained vivid, as has the yellow-gold silk lining (the silk is possibly from China.)

While the owner is known, the maker is anonymous. Items such as this were often made by young women for their fathers, beloveds, or for themselves. As noted by MHS Curator, Anne Bentley, the large size of the pocketbook was fashioned to accommodate old tenor currency.