Exhibit Teaser: Two refashioned silk dresses will be featured in the forthcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society (https://www.masshist.org) ‘Fashioning the New England Family’ which opens October 2018. The lush, emerald green dress on the left began as Spitalfields silk damask wedding dress, worn by Rebecca Tailer [Byles] for her Boston wedding to Reverend Mather Byles, in 1747. It was altered, clumsily, c.1830s-40s, most likely for a costume or fancy dress event. Her matching shoes are extant and will also be on view.
Unfortunately, we do not know who made or wore the well-constructed pale green silk dress on the right. It shows the hand of a skilled dressmaker and most likely has a New England connection. Examination by costume historian and mannequin maker, Astrida Schaeffer, revealed the possibility that the original c1830s dress was replete with popular pouf sleeves, which were painstakingly remade for the 1840s.
Guest Curator, Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D.
MHS Curator, Anne Bentley
Photographer, Laura Wulf
Both dresses are shown on custom mannequins made by Astrida Schaeffer of Schaeffer Arts. (http://www.schaefferarts.com/)