Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fashions in Federal New England

Last night I went to a lovely little lecture at the Salem Athenaeum on early nineteenth century clothing. The speakers were Vicky Rebal and Matthew Brenckle, and it was called “Fashion in Federal New England.” The library is having its 200th anniversary, so it is holding a dance, clothing workshops, and this lecture. It was really very nice, although I am most definitely a mid-nineteenth century girl. I would much rather wear hoops or a swooshy Edwardian skirt than a long, column-like dress. Regardless, the lecture was interesting. I was particularly intrigued by the idea Mr. Brenckle brought up – that America in the early nineteenth century was full of young people. It wasn’t something I had ever thought about, but it makes sense. You have a generation of women having an average of 7 children each. So then you have tons of children, and tons of teenagers. I think that long, straight regency dresses suit slim teenage girls and young women rather better than they suit dumpy middle-aged women. It must have been easier for the style to catch on when there were so many more young women. The other thing I found most interesting was the idea of shockingly sheer dresses. Maybe I need a see-through dress to shock people! You know, with a petticoat under it, obviously.

I have such an urge to sew so many things, but today I’m moving back to my dorm, and I will be in the country for less than a week. So now is probably not the time to start projects. Here is an inspiring little picture from Thomas Wilson's dance manual, with pretty Federal fashions.

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