Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sorting out the Closet

By: Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Collections

What is in your closet? At home I have the usual work and casual items as well as a few old items that perhaps, someday, I will wear again. I have been trying to keep to a 5-year plan, meaning if I don’t wear it at least once in five years off to the Goodwill box it goes.

In our closet, ours being the Fenimore Art Museum, we have articles of clothing that have not been worn in 200 years. My 5-year “use it-or-lose-it” rule does not apply. Here, age and infrequent use are assets and are criteria for keeping. The fun part is when the keeping/collecting becomes an opportunity for displaying.

My colleagues and I are enjoying the pleasure of sifting through the thousands of dresses, skirts, shirts, pants and undies that make up our clothing collection. The goal is to select great examples of 19th century upstate New York fashion for our 2010 exhibit season. Yes, we did have fashion up here in the 19th-century New York “wilderness”, and still do today! So far we have empire waist dresses sewn with silver thread, wedding dresses (not in white), civil war-inspired military-themed day dresses, as well as stunning silk ball gowns. And, there will be kids clothing and some men’s wear and most certainly corsets. (Then, as now, it’s often all about the undergarment!)The question is, what to title the exhibit? The theme is the influence of state and national events on 19th century New York State fashion.
Suggestions so far are:

Connecting Threads: A Century of New York State Fashion

The Empire State’s New Clothes: 19th Century Upstate Fashion

We would love your help. Do you have an idea for a title? If so, send it along as a comment on this blog. Thanks!

Photos above: Consultant Janet Rigby (blue shirt) and Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Chris Rossi (orange shirt) prepare dresses for photography


Heather said...

Great photos and post - love the behind the scenes!

Anonymous said...

Antique Rags...

This WAS your Grandmothers' underwear!

I would like to see more behind the scenes photos!

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