October 18, 2020

Historical Fashion Program: 1830s Get Ready With Me + 4 Antique Pelerines

In today's post, I'll be revisiting a past fashion program that I collaborated on with Brandon Brooks, curator at the John L. Wehle Gallery, as well as sharing pictures of four antique pelerines from the early-mid 19th century.  The first pelerine was featured in the "Get Ready With Me" program and is from the Susan Greene Costume Collection.  The other three are from Point Park University's Costume Collection.  All together, I thought the costume program and extant garments would make for a great pairing and interesting blog post - hope you enjoy! 

It's no secret that I love historical fashion - the researching, recreating, and wearing of past clothing - and I jump at any chance to share this passion with the public.  In the last five years, I've come to develop an array of historical fashion programs for all ages - from a "fashion fun" summer camp, to themed public talks, a walking tour, and even a fashion show.  (If you're interested in reading more about some of those, check out these previous posts: Presenting on Fashion: "The Underwear Under There" and Fashion Show at the Bement-Billings Farmstead Museum).  

I'm building quite the library of notes from these, and I have so many ideas for other presentations!  It's my dream to continue in this style of education and outreach, and expand upon these offerings.  I see historical fashion and similar "dressing a lady" programs appealing to public schools, historic houses and societies, living history museums, libraries, and other community centers looking for an educational, yet entertaining and interactive presentation.  I have the passion, and now the wardrobe, so I just need to find an audience and outlet...(So if you're looking, or know of a group that would be interested, feel free to email me at anneliesemeck@gmail.com ;)  I also plan on getting my professional website up and running soon, so be on the look out for that too.)

Anyways, back to our current presentation topic:

Part I - Historical Fashion Program: Getting Dressed in the 1830s 

The historical "Get Ready With Me" was just a whole lot of fun!  I was invited by Brandon, now curator at the John L. Wehle Gallery, to collaborate again on one of his 2019 Summer Gatherings.  After hearing the idea, it was, of course, an immediate and enthusiastic "yes!" from me.  

Table display for the "Getting Dressed in the 1830s" Program,
featuring extant garments from the Susan Greene Costume Collection.

Since I had some time, I was able to put together a few things, including making a new chemise and set of hair ringlets for the presentation.  Brandon pulled together an amazing display table of extant examples from the Susan Greene Costume Collection (pictured above), including all of the undergarments, dresses, outerwear, and accessories that a fashionable lady of the 1830s would have worn.  These items were presented alongside the "get ready with me," which was literally me getting dressed in my reproduction clothing.  

Detail of some of the items on the display table -
including (left to right) an 1830s sleeve plumper, slippers, reticules, false ringlets and cap.

I thought this was a great format, showing both layer by layer what would have been worn (and is still by the historical interpreters in the village) along with original examples from the period.  Visitors often ask what's under the costumes, or simply see items mounted in display cases - and this provided an opportunity to go beyond the glass barriers, and get up close and personal with fashion history.  And I think both our morning and afternoon audiences appreciated what they saw.  

Making the costume collection more accessible, relatable, and enjoyable for the public are really central to Brandon's programs and vision.  He's an incredibly knowledgeable and passionate curator, and it's always a great privilege and pleasure to get to work with him.  (He also has an Instagram account @l_aspect_ancien, where he posts daily images from the costume collection, as well as exhibit related and other, personal sewing projects - so go follow him there!)

The afternoon session was live streamed on the Genesee Country Village & Museum Facebook Page, and is still accessible there, if you're interested in viewing the presentation.  I'll also embed the video below, so you can also watch it here:

Towards the end of the video, Brandon briefly and very carefully draped a gorgeous, antique pelerine with whitework embroidery over my shoulders.  The result was perfectly period - though the original wearer and I had different measurements, the pelerine visually broadened my shoulders and back, really emphasizing the fashionable silhouette.  (And making me want a pretty pelerine of my own!)

The following pictures were taken by Brandon and shared via Instagram @l_aspect_ancien.  The illusion is most noticeable in the back view:

Part II - Extant Garments: Antique Pelerines

Since I was already going to feature the one pelerine (above), I thought it would appropriate to include a few more, similar accessories.  Note: the following images of extant pelerines may be shared and saved for educational and person reference, only, and must include the appropriate credit to either the "Susan Greene Costume Collection" or the "Point Park University Costume Collection" as noted.  [Click on the images to enlarge]

Pelerine 1:  Fine cotton pelerine with whitework embroidery, c.1820s-30s, from the Susan Greene Costume Collection.

Between the morning and afternoon presentations, I was given permission to the study this pelerine.  While I was photographing, I also took detailed measurements and traced a paper pattern for the upper and lower collars and lappets (which is currently in a different state right now, otherwise I'd include that in this post).  I hope to someday reproduce it, though I'm not sure about all of that hand embroidery! 

Cotton pelerine with whitework embroidery, c.1820s-30s.
Susan Greene Costume Collection.

Detail of the embroidery on the upper collar.

Detail of the embroidery on the lower cape.
(Image by Brandon, via Instagram @l_aspect_ancien)

The next three extant examples are from the Point Park University Collection.  When I was a student there, I was given permission to study and photograph pieces from the university's collection, (more details here: project background). 

Pelerine 2:  Square collar of cotton with whitework embroidery, c.1820s-30s.  Like the first example, this features wide upper and lower collars with a small, floral motif and scalloped edges. 

Cotton collar with whitework embroidery, c.1820s-30s.
Point Park University Costume Collection.

Detail of the whitework embroidery.

Pelerine 3:  Embroidered net pelerine, c.1820s-40s.  Notice again the double collars and lappets, leaf-shaped motifs around the boarders, and scalloped edges.  

Embroidered net pelerine, c.1820s-40s.
Point Park University Costume Collection.

Detail of the embroidery.

Pelerine 4:  Pelerine or fichu, dotted swiss cotton with lace frill, early-mid 19th century.  

This accessory would have served a similar, decorative and functional purpose, though it is cut in a slightly later style than those above.  The center front and back both measure 21.5" from the neck to end point, and the edges are finished with a 1" hem.  There is quite a bit of piecing of the dotted swiss cotton, and the lace measures 2" wide.  

Pelerine or fichu of dotted swiss cotton with lace trim, early-mid 19th century.
Point Park University Costume Collection.

Detail of the piecing at the shoulder.

Detail of the lace trim.

And that's it for today's post!  I also have a page for Extant Garments if you're interested in more posts featuring items from the Point Park University Costume Collection.  

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