Museum Exhibit Looks at Clothing History
From bonnets to bustles to Bermuda shorts, more than 200 years of clothing history come together in a new exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
The exhibit "What We Wore in North Carolina" takes a look at the elegant, everyday, chic, sporty, trendy and other styles that make up our state's costume history.
The exhibit opened Tuesday, Sept. 19, and will be presented in two rotations.
The first selections will be on view until Feb. 19, 2007. The exhibit will reopen March 13 and close Oct. 7, 2007.
Admission is free.
Fashion trends come and go, but time stands still in this chronological exhibit showcasing items from the colonial period to the 1990s. Much of the clothing in "What We Wore in North Carolina" will be on view for the first time.
The exhibit provides glimpses of how changes within the state have influenced styles.
"Clothing reveals more than personal taste," says Louise Benner, curator of costumes and textiles. "It shows us how wars and scarcities affect fashion and how people can use their creativity. It tells us how some groups express their beliefs and occupations, and it reflects advancements in textile technology."
The variety of items in "What We Wore in North Carolina" ranges from an 18th-century woman's jacket to 20th-century men's colorful "preppy" plaid slacks.
See how middle- and upper-class women dressed in the Victorian era (1837-1901) in luxurious, richly detailed dresses. Underneath, the silk and satin, ladies wore tightly laced corsets, hoops or small bustles for a fashionable figure.
Homespun, handwoven outfits from the 1800s illustrate how much of North Carolina's rural population made fabric and clothing at home.
Shortages during the Civil War required women to make do with clothing on hand or make cloth themselves. Much fabric went toward Confederate uniforms, such as the exhibit's blue wool staff coat worn by Capt. Graham Daves, brother-in-law of Gov. John W. Ellis.
Simpler styles for work and sports began to appear by the 1890s. However, women's ankle-length tennis skirts, such as one in the exhibit, and shirts still required a corset. Women began to show their legs for the first time in the 1920s, when slim, tubular dresses came into vogue.
Hollywood's influence in the 1930s popularized long, clinging designs worn by glamorous movie stars. A bias-cut blue velvet evening gown in "What We Wore in North Carolina" exemplifies this style.
Unfortunately, the Hollywood heyday screeched to a halt when World War II brought fabric shortages and government restrictions banning designs with excess cloth.
After the war, the good times and the fabric bolts rolled. Designers used large amounts of fabric in the 1940s New Look, emphasizing small waists and full skirts. This look led to more comfortable 1950s fashions with new wash-and-wear fabrics. Polyester pantsuits and psychedelic prints popped on the scene in the 1960s.
In the last half of the 20th century, men, women and children mixed and matched apparel to suit themselves, and each decade brought new trends. For example, the glitz of the 1960s sparkles in the exhibit's Oscar de la Renta minidress with gold accents.
By the 1990s, no predominant style reigned, and designers used past style elements to create fresh looks.
An array of hats, purses and shoes rounds out the exhibit. Visit the N.C. Museum of History for a fascinating look at "What We Wore in North Carolina."
The N.C. Museum of History's hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
The museum is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, an agency of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. The department's Web site is www.ncculture.com.
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