Saturday, July 8, 2017

Lecture: "'For the heat is beyond your conception:' Dressing for the Heat in the Eighteenth Century"

On Thursday, July 13, join Neal Hurst, Associate Curator, Costumes and Textiles, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for an illustrated lecture, entitled  "'For the heat is beyond your conception:' Dressing for the Heat in the Eighteenth Century"

Held at Historic Deerfield Community Center. Free.
Sponsored by Bank of America
For additional information, see:

Image: Natural cotton breeches, Tazewell, 1770-1810
Origin: America, Virginia
Waist: 37 3/4" to 41" OL: 29" Inseam: 17" Selvage width of textile: 13 3/4"
Cream tabby weave cotton, lined with tabby linen.
@Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, Acc. No. 1991-563

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Versatility of a Victorian Farm Wife’s Wedding or Best Dress

 The Newmarket Historical Society, Newmarket, NH held an exhibition of wedding dresses from New England, housed in the collection of the Society. The exhibition was on view from June-August 2016. Most of the wedding dresses were modest, and many were sewn by family members (well into the 1970s)—mothers, sisters, aunts.

Among what we consider the traditional wedding finery, were two “best” dresses –most likely worn for the respective bride’s weddings—one by the mother and the other by her daughter.  Both married farmers. [[1]]

The mother was Phoebe Marie Prime, who married Benjamin Philo Downs, January 25th 1843 in South Britain, CT.  She died at an early age, probably of consumption. Her daughter, Emma Marie Downs, was raised by her aunt and guardian. Anticipating disapproval from her aunt, Emma and her husband to be, David Chester Platt, ran away to get married. They married on December 28th, 1874 in New York, and ultimately resided in her hometown, South Britain, CT. The ending, however, is a happy one. At a later point, her guardian felt it was prudent to save face in the town and gave the newlyweds a very large reception.

Emma’s “best” dress is extant. Clearly well-worn, her cotton print dress dates from the last quarter 19th century.  The dress features a fitted, integral bodice. Adjustable interior ties at the waist may indicate that the dress was also designed to serve as maternity wear.

In addition to her ‘best’ dress, a simple blue and white checked cotton gown survives from the late 19th century, and so does one of her husband’s waistcoats. Both garments exhibit straight forward practicality, and modest materials, with little if any additional embellishments. They are clearly well 
worn and functional.

[1] The dresses are in the collection of the Tarbox family, on loan to the Newmarket Historical Society

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fashionable Folks: What New Englanders Wore, 1830s-1920s

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit 'What New Englanders Wore, 1830s-1920s'  on view at The Colonel Paul Wentworth House Rollinsford, New Hampshire Curated by Julia Roberts.

The Col. Paul House is a great destination spot for a Sunday ramble around New Hampshire. The house and the exhibit are open Sundays 1-4 through October 8th 2017.  For details, see

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Made in London, Worn in America: Brocaded Silk Shoes, c. 1760

An elegant pair of brocaded silk buckle shoes, with leather sole and carved wood heel, were London-made by John Hose & Son, c. 1760 and likely worn by an American bride. Hose shoes were incredibly popular in British-America, and will be discussed in my forthcoming book.They are housed in the collection of the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum (DAR Museum).
 These shoes are believed to be the wedding shoes of Elizabeth Lord. She was born in 1735 in Lyme, CT, and married at the age of 25 in 1760 to Jared Eliot in nearby Killingworth, CT. Note the excellent pattern matching at the toes which is evident in a number of surviving Hose shoes, such as this pair in the collection of Historic New England. Similar in design aesthetic, the HNE brocaded silk buckle shoes feature a two-inch French heel, oval toe and bright polychrome florals, London, c. 1770. The owner is currently unknown.  
Pattern matching on toes and heels indicated a particularly expensive shoe as creating the upper required more of the costly fabric than if it was pieced together from smaller bits.

Top two images: Courtesy, The Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, Washington DC. Accession number 3629.A-B
Bottom image: Courtesy, Historic New England, Gift of Miss Mary C. Wheelwright, Accession Number 1919.140AB
The author thanks Curator Alden Tullis O’Brien, and Assistant Curator/Associate Registrar Carrie Blough, of the DAR Museum, for their assistance with the shoes.