Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Civil War Reproduction Clothing for Kids

Hello SilkBrocade watchers, this is Alexa here to quickly let you know about some Strawbery Banke sewing! For the past week I've been working on children's Civil War costumes, which will be used in the Discovery Center. With the Fitz John Porter exhibit in full swing, we want our young visitors to be able to try on these scaled versions of a Union enlisted man's uniform. The Collections Center has been buzzing with the sound of our seasoned 1975 sewing machine, which has served the museum in making everything from clothing to reproduction bed hangings! So far I have finished one complete outfit (shirt, sack coat, and trousers), but will continue to make more pieces in different sizes.

This has been a wonderful and fun way to connect the current exhibit to our work with historical clothing! Above are some pictures of my completed pieces, modeled on a child-sized dress form outside the Collections Center, Wednesday 29 June 2011.

Feathers, feathers everywhere! Old boxes, new finds.

It has been one of those weeks that has brought a number of significant but small collections items to the forefront, each with a special story to tell.

A pair of Portsmouth-made shoes from the late 1700s, a black hat (see previous post) also made in Portsmouth and this astonishing feather "capelet" from the early 19th century are on our screen this week. We will follow with photographs and details as the research unfolds, but simply had to share these images- this bounty-- from this afternoon.

What do you think of this luxury fashion accessory? Great addition to the exhibition and new materials and palette for the Thread designers. Right now trying to work out all the different birds represented by their feathers. Unfortunately, we appear to have little information on the donor or the wearer. Stayed tuned though, as the Thread team is home to a number of indefatigable researchers.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Victorian Garden Party - Original 19th Century Clothing!

On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, interns Rachel and Alexa went out to model some of Strawbery Banke's deaccessioned clothing in the Goodwin Garden. The re-created Victorian landscape served as a wonderful backdrop for our 19th-century wardrobe!

Mid- to late 19th century pleated blouse, modeled by Rachel.

Red taffeta bodice with gathered and frilled details, 1887-1890 - modeled by Alexa. There is a detachable standing collar of matching fabric, not shown. Like most of Strawbery Banke's 19th-century clothing, this bodice is very tiny and required a corset to fit a modern figure!

Burgundy heavy silk bodice with velvet and lace embellishment, missing front hook-and-eye closure, 1897. This bodice is an excellent example of an 1890s trend for puffed sleeves, which became more extreme throughout the decade!

Black pinstriped taffeta bodice, c. 1890s-1900. This one demonstrates another 1890s trend - the bodice front is pleated along the top shoulder seams, adding fullness to the bust.

Clothing photographed on site at Strawbery Banke Museum
Photos and styling by Rachel Passannante and Alexa Price
Additional styling by Heather Charles

'70s glam fashion throwback - Dawn Dolls!

Sometimes we all need a little fashion throwback. Turns out that Dawn dolls were a department favorite! Our homage to these tiny proto fashionistas. Check out the runway feature and the disco box.

Silkbrocade wants to know who did you collect? Dawn, Barbie, Chrissy or Bratz.....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mini Film -Thread: The Story of New England Fashion

Thread: The Story of New England Fashion

A short film by Silkbrocade for Thread
Featuring A Stargirl by the Spruce Campbells

Shoes by Emma Hope (mid 1990s red and white foliate patterned shoe with buckle, above) and James Davies (c. 1740 London Lady's Shoe, silk, linen, crewel embroidery floral pattern, below)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Genevieve, the Ellanam Dress Form Company and the New Look

Re-introducing Genevieve, our French pastoral dress form! We've been researching vintage dress forms lately, and have noticed several similar ones from personal sellers or auction sites. Her shape suggests that she is from c.1950, when Christian Dior's "New Look" had set the trend for fashion that emphasized a pointed bustline and small waist. The setup of multiple adjustable pieces is identical to Acme Adjustable Dress Forms from the 1950s, manufactured by the L&M (Ellanam) Adjustable Form Company in Brooklyn. Genevieve is unique in that she has lost her original covering; a previous owner converted her into a decorative piece by replacing the traditional sturdy fabric with toile paper.

The Ellanam Company became popular at the turn of the century for their revolutionary adjustable mannequins, which allowed seamstresses to make clothing for a more realistic body shape. In 1914 they were even involved in a legal case with the Hall-Borchert Dress Form Company, because both corporations wanted to claim the patent to such a convenient model.

Genevieve is part of a long progression of techniques in the history of fashion construction. One wonders what stylish New Look fashions she might have modeled before she was re-dressed in toile paper!

Above left, a 1910 advertisement for Acme Adjustable Dress Forms from eBay. Above right, an original 1950s Acme form from
Below, two New Look outfits by Christian Dior, from 1947 and 1955.

Alexa Price
Strawbery Banke curatorial intern

Genevieve photographed on site at Strawbery Banke Museum by Alexa Price

Other images and information from:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Designer Update: Art Nouveau Squid

Recent work from Helena at Art Nouveau Squid.
Helena is one of the creative design team members for Thread: The Story of Seacoast Fashion, and will be working on our "jewel box" installation. Think mirrors, hair combs & hat pins, cufflinks, cane toppers, dressing tables, crystal, gilt, gold, and richly patinaed surfaces everywhere. Some of her recently commissioned work is pictured above. For more see

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Something feathered

Last year, these shoes were found at Twice A Lady in Stratham. After a long stream of wedding slipper photography, we wondered if we would ever be sharing these on yet another wedding-related post.

Unlikely as we would have thought it, the time has finally come where we find a dress that nearly matches the shoes. A visit to the addicting vintage fasion site revealed a 1935 satin-and-ostrich-feather wedding gown - it is truly one-of-a-kind, both for the 1930s and today!

Alexa Price
Strawbery Banke summer curatorial intern

Safety is Always in Fashion

This mask is dated in the 1920’s and was used for miners. Here this mask exhibits a much more striking alien feel with the tube attachment.

The 1940’s British gas mask is accompanied with an olive green infantry bag. During WW2, the gas mask would have been used by soldier to protect themselves against weapons of war.

This final mask is modern day and is accompanied by a pair of safety glasses. The use of this mask is that of a renovation, where a lot of dust was entering the air due to sanding and construction.

These safety precautions taken over history show a progression of technology and safety and an evolution of these masks through time.

Bridget Swift
Strawbery Banke Curatorial Intern

Shoe Gallery - 1820s edition

These examples demonstrate two different styles of shoes that were worn in the 1820s. The first is a pair of wool slippers (c. 1825), decorated with brightly-colored petit point stitches. These heel-less types of shoes were popular among the young and fashionable at the end of the 18th century, and remained in vogue until the beginning of the Victorian period. The style, if not the decoration, of this pair is strikingly modern - not far from the "ballet" shoes worn by young women today. A brightly colored patchwork pair by Emma Hope clearly demonstrates this 21st-century twist on an old idea.

The second is a pair of c. 1820 mules - shoes with raised heels but open backs. Similar shoes were worn in the 1700s as well, but the patterned silk of this pair is more in line with the neoclassical style of the first decades of the 19th century. The padded silk under the wearer's foot must have been wonderfully comfortable - a pair in a different fabric might still be appealing today!

Alexa Price
Strawbery Banke summer curatorial intern

Strawbery Banke shoes photographed on site by Alexa Price
Emma Hope shoe from

Shoe Gallery - 1785 and today

The Carter Collections Center at Strawbery Banke houses many pairs of shoes as part of the costume and textile collection, including these two examples from c. 1785.

The first pair, constructed from kidskin leather and partially covered in ivory satin, remains in beautiful condition for its age. Markings inside the shoe tell that it was made by Chapman Bootmakers of London, and worn in Portsmouth by "Mrs. Windslow Peirce" (of a local family. There is also an early, probably original monogram "MCB"). A close-up photograph shows the front design of the shoe - the satin covering and binding, a pointed piece or "tongue" that extends over the top of the wearer's foot, and a complex bow edged with looped fringe. The side view shows a narrow heel, with the characteristic curves of the 18th century. It is easy to imagine such an exquisite piece of footwear for a wedding, even 200 years after the shoe was worn. Well known London shoe designer Emma Hope, who is currently designing a line of shoes and matching bags inspired by the Strawbery Banke Museum collection and is a member of the "Thread" design team, recently included similar features in a shoe for her wedding line - ivory satin, a bold front bow of grosgrain ribbon, with small narrow heels. They look as elegant in 2011 as they must have in the 1780s "

The second pair, less sturdy and constructed of pale yellow figured silk, were worn by Lydia Waite Williams of Salem, Massachusetts, and were a recent gift to Strawbery Banke. Miss Williams' shoes tend to wrinkle and fold due to previous storage conditions, but when new, the shape would have been similar to Mrs. Peirce's. The front bears the same pointed "tongue," a similar binding pattern, and little noticed "drawstring." The heel is equally narrow and sweeping, although shorter than the Peirce shoes. Miss. Williams' shoes are decorated in the front with sequins and beads, in a design that creatively suggests the buckle closure of other period shoes-- a trompe l'oeil effect as observed by Paula Richter, Peabody Essex Museum."

Alexa Price
Strawbery Banke summer curatorial intern

Strawbery Banke shoes photographed on site by Alexa Price
Emma Hope shoe from

4H Design Revue Teaser- Historic Reproductions

I recently had the honor of taking part as a judge in the University of New Hampshire Extension Program 4H Design Revue. Youth designers from age 12 to 18 from throughout New Hampshire took part and created some stunning and inspired creations for their own uses: proms, hanging out with friends, first communion, attendance at conferences, family gatherings and so on. Overall the tailoring was impeccable, frequently with complex darts, zippers, fastners of every sort, seams, and pleats. These young men and women are type A personalities in the making and should be applauded for their efforts. Their families and leaders, and the UNH Extension Program are to be highly commended.

More on this important educational and outreach program in future blogs, but I wanted to share a few examples of youth excellence in design and artistry in the Granite State. Being part of the process was personally and professionally fulfilling and I encourage others with an interest or avocation to volunteer for any number of programs. To Janith Bergeron, of The Sewing Tree, and Kathy Jablonski, Grafton County Extension program, I extend my thanks for their warm hospitality and experienced guidance.

Deanna in Elizabethan multi piece garment. The lavish floor length robe, with gold trim braid and period appropriate closures, and the bodice "bustier" with finely constructed boning set this stunning reproduction piece apart. It took weeks to construct, fabricate and tailor, and including some hand sewing.

Sarah's blue silk Empire waist, ankle length gown uses period appropriate seams and subtle detailing such as lace edged sleeves. She demonstrates that an elegant style never goes out of style even after two centuries!