Dresses on Display

March 13th, 2013

In a shameless plug for the South County Historical Society, where I volunteer as curator of textiles, here’s a peak at the dresses currently on display. If you’re in the Central Coast area, why not drop by and see them in person? Hurry, because we’re about to change the exhibit in the next month or so. They’re in the back room at Heritage House, in old Arroyo Grande Village. The museums are open Saturday & Sunday afternoons, and admission is free!

Working backwards, there’s a stunning (in more ways than one!) gown from the 1980s, made by a local seamstress…

Dress on Display

An adorable gold cocktail confection from the 1960s…

Dress on Display

A slinky black evening number with silver beading from the 1940s…

Dress on Display

And my favorite — a stunning black silk frock with metallic braiding from the 1920s. I’m particularly proud of the gently shaped arm supports I constructed out of wire, polyfil, and stockinette. I also had to contrive an interior skirt support from the waistband to the mannequin’s shoulders to preserve the bloused effect and prevent the heavy hem from damaging the relatively delicate bodice lining.

Dress on Display

Don’t you just love the coordinating hat boxes and fern too? Those are courtesy of Joe, designer in residence at the SCHS.

*I don’t usually post about my work at the Historical Society, since most of it is rather repetitive (unless you really, really like brushing textiles), and conflicts of interest abound when it comes to sharing pictures of the objects on the internet. But since these dresses are already on public display, and I really want you to go visit them, I figured it would be okay to make an exception!

Winterthur: Indoors

April 23rd, 2011

Here, finally, are the pictures I took inside Winterthur on the general house tour. Some are a little blurry, as I kept my flash turned off (if all the other tourists knew how much damage they’re doing to the historic surfaces when they flash their cameras, they’d have done the same — and their pictures would have been blurry too).

The house, which was home to a few generations of the DuPont family during the 19th and early 20th centuries, has 175 rooms on 9 floors. Henry Francis DuPont, the last to live there, was a collector of American antique furniture. He filled the house with his collection, eventually moving out to a smaller building nearby so that he could open the house as a museum.

It’s an amazing tour — room after room (we only saw a small portion of the house on the excellently delivered hour-long tour) chock-a-block with fine antiques of every period from the 17th century through the mid-19th. Since it’s mostly a collection of antiques, some of the pieces don’t really make sense. For example, they have at least one secretary or escritoire in every single room. Sometimes two or three. No one writes that many letters. But they were sure beautiful to look at. There are also far more corner cupboards than any sane person would ever own, filled with dishes that weren’t purchased to hold food. An entire pantry was devoted to the display of porcelain candlesticks.

The few nods to social history date to the roaring 20s, when the DuPont family were living in the house and entertaining their fortunate guests amidst all the antiques. What a place to play hide and seek! The faux tea sandwiches and petit-fours were a nice touch.

Winterthur: Outdoors

April 18th, 2011

This weekend, I traveled by rail to my natal place — namely northern Delaware. Saturday was spent in various family gatherings. On Sunday, my parents drove us to Winterthur: once a DuPont family estate, now a world-famous museum of American decorative arts, surrounded by an enormous naturalistic garden.

Today, I’m going to share some of the photographs I took during our tram ride and walk through the gardens.

Next up: the interior.