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Throwback Thursday: Curator's Corner

The following is from former curator, Heather Kuzma, this was her first "Curator's Corner" in our Montgomery County Historical Society's 2014 Newsletter. Please enjoy!

First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Heather Kuzma, and I am the new Curator and Collections Manager at the Montgomery County Historical Society. I have worked with many different types of collections, but my primary interest is historic American textiles.

Serendipitously, my arrival at Lane Place came with the opening of the current exhibit [in 2014], A Stitch in Time, created by the past curator, Jennifer Rigsby. Although this exhibit mainly focuses on quilts, the exhibit discusses overall textile production and usage. One of the items on display in the Lane Bedroom as part of the exhibit is a lavender dress. Not much is known about the dress because it was found in collections during the 2012 inventory, but we can tell that it is a good example of the type of day dress that would have been worn by Joanna and the ladies who visited Lane Place during the mid-19th century.

The 19th century exhibited some of the most fluctuating fashion of any century. Silhouettes drastically changed throughout the century. The beginning of the 19th century was characterized by a rejection of the elaborate clothing seen during the preceding century. The clothes were close-fitting to the body, and most of the form-shaping undergarments were rejected. As the century progressed, these undergarments reappeared. The emphasis began to be placed on the widening of skirts which accentuated a small waist. Therefore, layers of petticoats and corsets were employed to create this appearance. The width of the skirt became even more dramatic as the century neared its midpoint, especially with the introduction of the ‘cage crinoline’. The ‘cage crinoline’, also referred to as a hoop skirt, was made up of metal or bone rings which were able to support a wider skirt without the cumbersome layers and weight of multiple petticoats.

The dress on display in the Lane Bedroom was most likely created during the middle of the 19th century because of its wide skirt and natural waist. After the mid-19th century, skirts began to be gathered at the back placing the emphasis there. As the 19th century closed, a clothing reform movement was taking place which expressed the desire to remove the restricting (and often dangerous) fashion that was en mode. The reform movement was not successful in its most radical ideas, but clothing did become less restrictive, seemingly starting right back at the beginning of the 19th century.

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