Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Embellishments in Victorian Fashion: Exhibition, Saco Museum

On view at the Saco Museum, Saco, Maine 
May 13 - August 27, 2017

Sumptuous fabrics, vibrant colors and textures, masses of elaborate trims - all are defining elements of fashionable Victorian women's clothing. Nineteenth-century designers had very definite ideas of what constituted beauty, and these concepts had a widespread impact on art and design. Embellishments in Victorian Fashion focuses on how nineteenth-century aesthetics influenced women's clothing design and construction.  A variety of Victorian design concepts are examined in detail, including self-trim, color and texture contrasts, ruching, pleating, ribbon work, and asymmetry.

Curator Astrida Schaeffer notes: “This is a greatly expanded exhibition from the original Embellishments show, exploring the nine design building blocks with garments from five institutions. For most of the clothes, this is a rare opportunity to be seen by the public, and having them together in this way not only showcases their beauty, but gives the elements of their design a context. In a way, the exhibition is a giant scavenger hunt — is that piping there? Look at that texture contrast! The wonderful techniques and the textures, fabrics, and colors offer an inspiration for anyone interested in fashion and design.”

The exhibition features fifty garments from five institutions in Maine and New Hampshire: the Saco Museum, the Irma Bowen Textile Collection of the University of New Hampshire, the Portsmouth Historical Society, Strawbery Banke Museum, and the Woodman Institute of Dover, New Hampshire. 
 Astrida Schaeffer has been making reproduction historical clothing since 1986 and museum mannequins since 1998. Her recent book, Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail, focused on the UNH Irma Bowen collection and has received high praise. Astrida holds a Master of Arts in History from the University of New Hampshire with a focus on material culture and museum studies, and was assistant director at the UNH Museum of Art for ten years, where she was responsible for collections care, exhibition installation, and object preparation. She trained in mannequin production at the Textile Conservation Center in Lowell, MA and with the Northern States Conservation Center.

How Victorians Got So Fancy
Friday, August 18, 6:00 p.m. 

How Victorians Got So Fancy will be the final program in our Embellishments in Victorian Fashion summer exhibit. In this program, guest curator Astrida Schaeffer will focus on the silvery grey 1870s day dress made and owned by Celestia Freeman of Somersworth, New Hampshire. Freeman was the wife of a mill overseer who likely saw this dress as a way of marking her status in the new community she moved to with her husband. Schaeffer will use Freeman's well preserved dress to explore the development of the sewing machine, the importance of pre-made patterns, and the effects of the fashion magazine industry. 

For more about Astrida Schaeffer and Schaeffer Arts, see:

For details about the exhibition and the Saco Museum, see:

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