Long before Bean Boots, Mainers were on the forefront of fashion

Gerard Ortiz

Very long in advance of L.L. Bean boots were modeled by Brooklyn hipsters and Angela Adams’ handbags were draped around the shoulders of people in Los Angeles, Mainers experienced a heightened sense of manner.

In the 1870s, for instance, fashion-acutely aware Maine citizens realized the bulky design and style of women’s skirt recognised as “polonaise” was giving way to a considerably slimmer silhouette called “cuirasse,” from the French word that means shut fitting, like armor. When Hannah P. Adams of Belfast acquired her marriage ceremony trousseau close to the time of this adjust in traits, it involved a dress in the newer model, alongside with a knee-size jacket termed a basque.

“Mainers have constantly been stylish, and that is a thing we see in our clothing collection,” reported Jamie Kingman Rice, deputy director of the Maine Historic Modern society. “Because of ties to British shipping in the mid-1800s, persons in places like Eastport and Belfast would have had accessibility to the most current fashions and ideas in fashion. But we see that individuals in additional rural areas had been interested as well.”

The idea that Mainers – at minimum some – have prolonged exhibited a flair for trend is the topic of an exhibit at the Maine Historic Culture in Portland termed “Northern Threads: Two Generations of Costume at Maine Historic Modern society,” with about 50 ensembles from 1780-1889, together with Hannah P. Adams’ costume, on watch via July 30. The society’s outfits assortment is so big the exhibition has been broken into two elements, with apparel from 1890-1980 on view Aug. 12 through Dec. 31.

The historical culture is also presently hosting two other exhibitions that assist illustrate Mainers’ connections to or obsessions with fashions more than the previous 200 many years. “Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Madeleine Burrage” focuses on two Maine sisters who ended up artists and incorporates drawings from Paris fashion designers in the 1920s and ’30s. It’s on view via Sept. 24.

The other is “Representing Every Certain: John Martin’s 19th Century Style Illustrations,” showcasing observations, viewpoints and drawings about regional trend from the journal of a Bangor businessman in the latter half of the 1800s, on check out as a result of Aug. 6.

On the net variations of all a few exhibitions are readily available to view at the Maine Historic Society’s “current exhibitions” site.

“Northern Threads: Two Hundreds of years of Gown at Maine Historic Society” is a two-element show.  Ben McCanna/Personnel Photographer

Rice, guide curator of “Northern Threads,” had begun planning the exhibit for the state’s bicentennial in 2020, but the pandemic and other difficulties pushed the exhibit again. So now it is open all through the historical society’s bicentennial yr, which is correct, Rice says, mainly because it highlights aspect of the society’s assortment of some 3,000 garments.

The “Northern Threads” demonstrate marks a single of the several occasions the historical society has set so several parts of clothing on watch, Rice stated, as outfits displays are fairly labor intensive. A lot of items are gentle and fragile and have to be managed and displayed diligently. Moreover, the lighting has to be very carefully organized, so as not to injury the materials. Some items just can’t be remaining out in the mild and air much too extended.

A 1931 structure from Paris for a dinner costume from the exhibit “Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Madeleine Burrage” at Maine Historic Modern society in Portland. Photograph courtesy of Maine Historic Society/Maine Memory Network No.54252

A good deal of the outfits arrive from family collections, donated to the historic society, while numerous came to the historic society from the collection of the former Westbrook Faculty in Portland (now portion of the University of New England), which experienced a trend curriculum. Some parts that depict the latest fashions of the working day occur from family members who lived in tiny, rural or remote locations, like the little city of Alexander, on Route 9 around Calais, or the Oxford County city of Waterford. In the 2nd element of “Northern Threads,” there will be a marriage ceremony gown festooned with ostrich feathers utilized for a wedding ceremony on distant Matinicus Island in the 1890s.

This very first element of “Northern Threads” includes Civil War-era dresses and navy uniforms, bustle attire, attire designed with reused material at a time when material was not uncomplicated to arrive by, mourning fashions and attire with the “gigot” or puffed sleeves well-known in the 183os.

Just one of the gigot-sleeve attire illustrates Rice’s point about remote Maine locations possessing a pipeline to foreign trend. It’s a two-piece silk and satin weave ensemble, circa 1830, and belonged to the Leavitt spouse and children of Eastport. It will come with a tiny cape, named a pereline, that suits around the gown. The deep purple silk was highly-priced in its day and likely dyed with imported logwood, before the arrival of chemical dye.

In the 1830s, folks in Eastport would have been motivated in their fashions and preferences by the regular stream of British ships bringing European items to the distant Maine seaport, Rice mentioned. The selection of British ships coming to Eastport improved 800 % in the early 1830s.

Examples of the gigot sleeve in attire from the 1820s-1830s, on display screen at Maine Historical Society. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

An additional theme that can be uncovered in the historic society’s clothing selection is the creative imagination of Mainers, who from time to time would get the most recent fashions but adapt them with their personal hands and thoughts, Rice explained. The costume belonging to Hannah Adams in Belfast, for occasion, has a label from a Boston clothier, W.H. Bigalow, 150 Warren Ave., Boston. But later on, the costume was hand embroidered with vibrant floral patterns – hinting at daisies, berries, cat tails and poppies. Also included was a chenille fringe.

There’s an place of the “Northern Threads” exhibit devoted to adaptive reuse. A single extremely intelligent instance is a eco-friendly, white and rose-colored silk brocade gown worn by a member of the Jewett loved ones to a Portland ball in 1825 honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero. The material of the dress dates from the late 1730s or early 1740s, and the dress was to begin with made in the 1770s. Then it was altered and re-styled for the 1825 ball, but in a Colonial Revival model.

Some other examples of Mainers’ own imaginative variations of fashions will be viewed in the next component of “Northern Threads” when it opens in August. 1 of people is a women’s aviator’s jacket – assume Amelia Earhart – which were being preferred in the 1930s. It was built by a Maine lady who labored at a shoe manufacturing unit and experienced accessibility to leather-based.

Supplementing the eye-catching fashions are some astonishing particular tales. Among the the a variety of army uniforms on show is the costume uniform coat of Oliver Otis Howard of Leeds, when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military services Academy at West Stage in the 1850s. For the duration of the Civil War, Howard missing his proper arm at the Battle of 7 Pines in Virginia. Right after the war, he was commissioner of the U.S. Freedmen’s Bureau and founder of Howard University in Washington, D.C., today a single of the finest-recognised historically Black colleges in the state.

The other two manner reveals now at the historical modern society also spring from own tales. Sisters Mildred Giddings Burrage (1890-1983) and Madeleine Burrage (1891-1976) came from a Maine family members that designed its fortune in lumber about the Bangor location and sooner or later settled in Wiscasset. Mildred researched and worked as an artist in France, wherever she turned interested in haute couture. Madeleine grew to become a jewelry designer, and both equally traveled extensively in Europe and South America, generally creating home about the fashions they saw.

Amid Mildred’s gathered papers and writings are initial drawings and descriptions of dress layouts from trend houses in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s. The drawings had been despatched to likely customers in the times before catalogs and internet sites, stated Tilly Laskey, curator at the Maine Historical Modern society and of the Burrage present.

Thirty of these “line sheets” that includes dress layouts are on screen as component of the display. Addresses and other information and facts show they had been not sent directly to Mildred, and it’s not crystal clear how she acquired them over the a long time, Laskey claimed. Many of these drawings are in shade and come with images of fabrics and colour samples.

Laskey also curated “Representing Each Distinct: John Martin’s 19th Century Style Illustrations.” Martin’s drawings are specifically interesting because he was neither an artist nor a university student of vogue. He was an accountant and store keeper from Bangor who was a eager observer. His very own father had died when he was youthful, and he knew little about him. So he experienced a powerful want to support his kids study about his periods and encounters. He still left behind a 650-web site journal and various scrapbooks of notes and sketches, completed from the 1860s into the 1890s. He drew what he saw and additional his individual commentary.

Annie Martin drawn by her father, John Martin, in 1866 from “Representing Every Distinct: John Martin’s 19th Century Fashion Illustrations” at Maine Historic Society. Picture courtesy of Maine Historic Culture/Maine State Museum/Maine Memory Community No. 101171

A single of his later on drawings, “A Society Woman of 1889,” displays a woman sporting a bustled costume, colored brightly with orange, red, violet and environmentally friendly, and keeping a parasol and a compact purse. In his description of the drawing, Martin phone calls the issue “a Modern society woman of the existing day” and notes that whilst the materials for the dress is not pricey, it “shows that the wearer is a particular person of wonderful taste.” Ten of his doodles and illustrations are on show.

“He can get a minor snarky about what folks were wearing and his descriptions are quite amusing,” explained Laskey. “He was drawing these freehand and offering a good deal of information about what he noticed.”


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