Monday, March 14, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
More from Accessories: Head to Toe, a symposium hosted by Colonial Williamsburg.
I'd originally planned to cover each day individually, but now that I've made it through the first entire day (and four great sessions), I've realized that that was a bit too ambitious. Two sessions a blog seems much more manageable. Also please note that the photos will all enlarge to show detail; just double-click on the image.
Costume Close-Up), who offered an overview of the costume accessories exhibition currently on display in CW's DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
Usually when we think of studying historic dress, we think of garments carefully tucked away and preserved. We don't generally imagine them encased in concretions, sitting at the bottom of an icy river for three centuries. But that has been exactly the scenario faced by the second speaker, Phil Dunning, material culture researcher, Parks Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. In 1690, the ship Elizabeth & Mary sank on its return from an ill-fated English attack on the French Canadian city of Quebec. Most of the ship and its crew vanished, but a small segment of the wreck that settled into a dip in the riverbed was preserved for 300 years until it again surfaced after a winter storm.
While excavating the site and laboriously freeing many of the relics from mineral concretions has taken nearly twenty years (and it's not finished yet), the discoveries have been startling. Not only were the archaeologists able to determine the name of the ship and that the soldiers aboard were militiamen from Dorchester, Massachusetts, but also that they were hardly all the rough-and-tumble backwoods colonial soldiers that are the stereotype for the era.
Instead the wreck revealed fashionable heeled men's shoes, stylish shoe buckles, and heart-shaped silver shirt brooches. While all clothing of linen and cotton had dissolved, that of silk and wool had not, and scraps of fancy knitted stockings, braided garters, and a length of striped silk ribbon from a gentleman's ribbon shoulder or sword knot were retrieved. Such tantalizing clues proved that the Dorchester officers – the most prominent men of their town – continued to dress to reflect their status even when embarking on a military expedition, and brought their fashionable, imported clothing with them. Fascinating!
Top left: Sleeve Ruffle, England or Europe, 1760-1785. Red Bow from Woman's Gown, France, c. 1770, silk & silk chenille. Miniature Portrait of a Member of the Fauquier Family, used as a Bracelet, by John Small (1740-1811), London, England.
Middle left: Unmade Ruffle, Europe, 1740-1760, cotton embroidered with linen.
Lower left: Cap, Connecticut, c. 1800, cotton embroidered with cotton, cotton and linen lace. Collar made from Sleeve Ruffles, probably England, c. 1770, remade after 1800. Cotton embroidered with cotton.
Above all from the collections of Colonial Williamsburg.
Bottom right: A few of the pieces excavated from the wreck of the Elizabeth & Mary, including a heeled shoe, buckles, and scraps of clothing.