This past week I've been in Colonial Williamsburg, attending the "Threads of Feeling" conference and doing general research. One of the highlights of my visit was an informal tour of CW's state-of-the-art textile storage facilities with curator Linda Baumgarten. Tucked away in rows of these high-tech aluminum drawers, left, are all kinds of treasures from the 17th to 20th centuries: clothing, quilts, coverlets and bed hangings, feed sacks and tablecloths, ribbons and trimmings.
But what really took my breath away were the late-18th c. gentlemen's coats and waistcoats from court suits. These clothes date from a time when elaborate, elegant (and expensive) men's wear was a sign of power and wealth, status dressing of the highest degree.
While these clothes may be over two hundred years old, they've aged very gracefully. Arranged in their flat drawers, the colored silks and velvets glowed against the acid-proof white tissue paper, the masterful embroidery and embellishment still vibrant and the sequins and beads still glittering – albeit under florescent lighting, not candlelight.
I like to picture the modern curators carefully tucking away these glorious clothes into their drawers, just as the long-ago valets and gentleman's gentlemen did. The silk is smoothed, the velvet is brushed, and the sleeves are folded exactly so, waiting and ready for the next time there's an important audience to impress....
All photographs copyright 2013 Susan Holloway Scott.