Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Pottery Barn, “Emma” and Neo-Classical Traditions

On Pottery Barn, “Emma” and Neo-Classical Traditions

Bridget Swift
Wheaton College
Strawbery Banke Curatorial Intern, 2010, 2011

Oh how style flies! It is amazing to see the patterns of fashion and style that appear and re-appear in the world of today. In a previous post, I introduced our “Emma” gown; a classic empire style gown donated to the museum in 1987 that we have come to call “Emma” (based on Jane Austen’s work that has been popularized through film) as well. The gown is from ca. 1810s and was worn by Rachel Morgan, daughter of General Jacob Morgan, when she was married in Philadelphia.

The gown is entirely hand-sewn and is constructed of white “spotted” muslin with a silk taffeta under dress, a rare survival. This “spotted” muslin creates tiny dots on the fabric, adding to it texture and dimension. The parallels with renowned contemporary designer Claire Pettibone ‘s wedding gown, also known as “Emma” are striking even over the span of nearly two centuries. While walking through Pottery Barn recently, dots appeared in front of me on a dinnerware set that was labeled the “Emma” pattern. I had to post it here because the coincidence was too amazing not to share! As you can see, on the dinnerware pattern, the dots line the pieces very simply, adding just a hint of texture to this otherwise simple, yet elegant, set. The textured dots are used the same way in “Emma” adding dimension to the gown in an unfussy, effortless air.

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