What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Chances are, getting dressed is at the top of the list! The reasons we dress are myriad; we dress for modesty, the weather, our jobs and roles in society, how we want to be perceived by others, and our mood. None of these reasons is fixed, and can change from one day to the next and over time. Formal and informal clothing, accessories, make up, hair care, and perfume or cologne, all contribute to our self-fashioning, and the impressions we give to others.
Historic Deerfield explores this concept in a special, 8-week fall exhibition of early 19th-century clothing and accessories. Examples of men’s and women’s dress from the collection will be on view in the Stebbins House and Williams House in September and October of 2018.
Clothing today looks very different from the early 1800s, but many of the same rules we know today applied back then. People often dressed to impress, spending considerable sums to look their best. Clothing choices varied, and depended on social circumstances or the occasion. Evening entertainment and Sunday meetings required one’s best clothing. Morning or late evenings at home called for more informal garments. Physical work was often performed wearing more practical clothing, perhaps older styles of less value than newer ones. Access to textiles, and the skilled artisans to turn fabric and trimmings into clothing and accessories, dictated one’s ability to adhere to urban fashions, as well as those from England and Europe.