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Fashion Archives

Truth is Stranger than Fictional Characters: Dolly Varden in the 1870s

August 30th 2019

During the mid-nineteenth century, people fell in love with Dolly Varden. She became so popular that suddenly anything and everything was named after her, including various types of music, a fish (the Dolly Varden Trout, specifically), a hat, and a style of dress. 


If Clothes Could Talk: The Social History of the Tea Gown

August 18th 2019

The tea gown has had many influences and inspirations. While the tea gown is very much a Victorian-era creation and a response to late nineteenth century culture, the tea gown also largely influenced fashion well into the twentieth century.


Exhibiting Costume at the Maryland Historical Society, 1970 and Now

August 17th 2019

In the 1970s, the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) began a practice of showcasing costume from its Fashion Archives using common exhibition practices for the period. The Fashion Archives  includes over 14,000 garments and accessories dating from 1724 to the present. Curatorial staff preserved the legacies of these exhibitions through meticulous…


Forgotten Furs: Collections Care Strategies for Fur Garments in the Maryland Historical Society's Fashion Archives

August 16th 2019

Fur fashions seem to transcend time and space. They have appeared in numerous cultures across the world throughout the last few thousand years for both functional and aesthetic reasons. While the 1980s and 1990s saw a decline in the desire for fur coats that required the inhumane treatment of animals…


Archiving Accessories: How to Mount a Fan for Storage

August 8th 2019

The Maryland Historical Society’s Fashion Archives holds more than dresses and garments. It also contains a multitude of fashionable accessories from hats to shoes, parasols to gloves, fans to stockings, and everything else in between. Fans were often both functional and decorative. Women in the 19th century kept cool on…


Making a Mend: Historic Repair Techniques for Costume

August 2nd 2019

What do you do when your favorite jeans wear out? Or you lose a button on your favorite blouse? Today’s fast fashion practices encourage consumers to replace garments that are torn, faded, or out of style, but in many costumes in the Fashion Archives at MdHS, evidence of repair means…


A Brief History of the Fashion Plate

July 26th 2019

Emily McCort, 2019 Summer Fashion Archives Intern In the last couple of years, I personally began collecting fashion plates. As someone who has an interest in fashion history and a background in the arts, the combination of fashion and art fascinated me. Earlier fashion plates give the most up to date…


Dating 101: The Pagoda Sleeve of the Mid-19th Century

July 19th 2019

This summer, I and the other Fashion Archives interns have been charged with the rediscovery, processing, and rehousing of costumes from the Maryland Historical Society’s Fashion Archives. Many of the costumes lack accompanying information about the original wearer, or even the time period, so it is necessary for us to…


Bold Prints, Ikat and Chiné Silk

July 12th 2019

When peeking into the boxes of the Fashion Archives at MdHS, one aspect of costume that always strikes me is the complexity of prints and patterns. Sometimes between layers of tissue, my first impression of a dress is only a glimpse of a spectacular floral motif or stripe. This was…


Repurposing Fashion: A 19th Century Woman's Guide to Thrift

July 5th 2019

Before the advent of the ready to wear market, clothing was very costly, not so much for the labor and time that went into creating a garment, but for the quality of the textiles used. Silk of the finest quality could cost the “equivalent to what a laborer might earn…


An 1890s Ermine Tail Cape

June 28th 2019

Around the year 1891, a family member of Trisler S. Pentz wore this cape to his christening. His cousins, Matilda and Charles Simmons, later gifted the cape to Pentz, who then gave it to family members Mr. and Mrs. Darison D. White. They donated the garment to the Maryland Historical…


Meet Our 2019 Fashion Archives Interns!

June 21st 2019

Our 2019 Fashion Archives interns have officially begun working at the Maryland Historical Society! Along with continuing the rehousing project for our costume collection, our three interns will also assist in the installation of the Spectrum of Fashion exhibit, opening October 5. Look forward to their weekly blog posts! 


2019 Fashion Archives Internship Announcement

January 11th 2019

 The Maryland Historical Society is pleased to offer summer positions to successful pre-program applicants for its annual Fashion Archives Internship Program! This year’s program will focus on conservation, mounting, and exhibition preparation of costume and accessories for the upcoming exhibition The Spectrum of Fashion: Highlights from the Fashion Archives at…


2018 Dress of the Year

December 28th 2018

The Maryland Historical Society Fashion Archives has announced its Dress of the Year 2018! With its stunning metallic gold and silver embroidery, lace trims, and its sequin-adorned net overlay, this early 1900s Doucet gown continues to take our breath away!


A Shield Against the Cold: an 1820s Winter Bonnet

December 21st 2018

Today, December 21st, officially marks the beginning of winter and, consequently, the ushering in of cold, frigid weather. When you woke up this morning, you likely consulted the day’s forecast and planned an outfit best suited for the chilly weather. One accessory often worn during this season is a hat…


Collecting Cauet

December 7th 2018

During the Belle Époque, a period conventionally dated from 1900 to 1914, various Parisian couturiers established influential design houses that continue to elicit exclamations of awe when one views their dresses' intricate embroidery, beading, and construction details.


Coat for a Coachman

November 17th 2018

I knew the symbol in an instant: a stag's head. I had seen it before on gilt curtain tiebacks and  china, on stained glass windows above the impressive double doors to the Great Hall, and on the enormous pier mirrors that reflect endlessly on each other in the red furnished…


Lottie Barton: Dressmaker, Importer, Smuggler

November 5th 2018

To this date, little research has been completed on late-19th  and early-20th century Baltimore dressmakers. Of course, there has been significant study on the many prominent department stores in the city, such as Hutzler's, The Hecht Company, and Stewart & Co. However, from the 1870s to the 1920s, Baltimore hosted…


Stitching the Past into the Present: A 1970s Designer Maxi Dress

October 27th 2018

A reoccurring phenomenon we consistently witness here in the Maryland Historical Society’s costume collection is the cyclical nature of fashion. Designers, whether deliberately or not, often incorporate past techniques, silhouettes, and trends into their own fashion creations and breathe new life into them. While a quite common practice, it is…


Juniors, Misses, Petites... Oh My!

October 22nd 2018

Shopping can often be a nightmare, no matter your size, shape, height, or weight. There is a severe lack of standardization in women's clothing from store to store, and even within the same brand due to differing fashion lines.


Jacques Doucet: The Collector in the Collections

October 13th 2018

The Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society boasts an outstanding collection of French haute couture worn by Marylanders. Among these beautiful, historical garments is an evening gown from the French haute couture house Doucet from around 1905.


Miss Dorsey's Duster

October 5th 2018

One of the strengths of the Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society is that you can find almost anything there. There are hats and fans, tailcoats and wedding dresses of every era, ball gowns and uniforms. Whatever kind of clothing you might want to study can be found in…


Put Your Functional Fashion Foot Forward

September 28th 2018

The emergence of female designers in ready-to-wear, off-the-rack fashion helped set the tone for the latter half of the 20th century: functionality informed the form. As girdles and garters were shed, they were replaced with breathable and movable fabrics, designed for a true human to wear, not the ideological feminine…


Am I Blue?

September 14th 2018

A Civil War Era Dress Is Readied For Display. This lovely sapphire silk striped dress was selected to go on display in our "Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War" exhibition.


Jeanne Lanvin’s Robe de Style: An alternative to “All that Jazz” fashions of the 1920’s

September 10th 2018

The zeitgeist of 1920’s fashions for most is the short, black, sparkly, beaded flapper dress. Thanks to popular culture powerhouses like Chicago and The Great Gatsby among others, this image of women’s fashion during this time has been cemented into the minds of the masses.


The Ongoing Evolution of the Pocket

September 3rd 2018

One of the most universally debated topics in fashion is the Woman’s Pocket, or current lack thereof. Over the last three centuries, we have seen women’s pockets evolve dramatically and rapidly. While recently deinstalling a mid 19th century piece from the current exhibit "Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War"…


What to Wear to the City-Poly Game: Football That Goes Way Back

August 27th 2018

 by Norah Worthington, Fashion Archives Intern, Summer 2018. One of the most time honored traditions in Baltimore is the annual Baltimore City College versus Baltimore Polytechnic Institute football game. Sometimes played on Thanksgiving Day, and often played in Memorial, or later M & T Bank Stadium, the game is one…


Finding First Lady Frances at the MdHS Fashion Archives

August 12th 2018

Prior to coming to the Maryland Historical Society’s Fashion Archives I had ever only heard of one Baltimore Dressmaker. That dressmaker was Lottie Barton and I only knew of her because of my time studying the clothes of the nation’s First Ladies at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.…



August 3rd 2018

The Little Black Dress (LBD)- a classic staple found in most women's closets. But where did it come from, and how did it survive? While processing numerous garments at the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) Fashion Archives, I've been surprised by the amount of black I have seen spanning decades, even…


Inside Mr. Darcy's Drawers

July 30th 2018

Jane Austen fans are a devoted group of historical dress artisans. The women's clothing certainly gets a lot of attention, but the men of that period can be just as elegant and interesting.  In fact, some of our modern assumptions about a classic men's look come from the early 1800's…


Art Nouveau Fashion: Giving Dress a Place Among Decorative Arts

July 23rd 2018

What do you think of when you hear “Art Nouveau”? Sinuous lines of French furniture and interiors? Stunning jewelry made of glass and gemstones worn by elite actresses like Sarah Bernhardt? Poster art? World’s Fairs and the Moulin Rouge? Tiffany glass?


Made and Remade for a Quaker Wedding

July 9th 2018

A tan silk Quaker wedding gown posed some puzzles for a summer day. Although we think of wedding dresses as white or ivory, at some periods in time, a bride simply wore her best dress. The soft brown color of this silk gown was common among Quakers, but exactly what…


Reading Between the Seams

July 9th 2018

As we continue processing the extensive collection housed inside The Maryland Historical Society, I’m developing a better understanding of what can be revealed from each individual garment through their unique elements. To glean any form of valuable information, we must put ourselves in the shoes, and clothes, of whoever wore…


A FAN-tastical Find in the Fashion Archives

July 2nd 2018

While we think of all the fantastic examples of historic clothing that the Fashion Archives possess, the Archives also hold exquisite examples of men’s, women’s, and children’s accessories. This includes, among other things, hundreds of fans from the 18th-20th centuries.


Why Do We Have Such Colorful Civil War Dresses?

July 2nd 2018

When we think about wartime fashions, often we think of fabric rations, women in coveralls, uniforms, and drab beige, khaki, or olive clothing. While these textiles and styles were common during World War I and World War II, we often forget that during the Civil War bright patterned wool and…


Donor Paul Edel

June 25th 2018

As a professional costumer, it is a bit of a detour to go into the world of museum collections. Working on theater productions, I certainly have spent many hours researching a period, or recreating antique garments for a show. I’ve even found myself using pieces that are “vintage” in a…


La Belle Epoque and Liberty & Co.’s Opulent Fashions

June 18th 2018

Women's fashions during La Belle Epoque, a time between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the start of World War I (1871-1914), were just one of a series of art forms that flourished during that period, considered a golden age of art and design.


A Dress, A story, and Mary Todd Lincoln

February 8th 2018

In 1957, a dress was given to the Maryland Historical Society with an interesting story attached.


Summer 2018 Internship Announcement

January 17th 2018



The Anatomy of an 18th Century Shoe

November 27th 2017

Women's shoes in the 18th century were truly things of beauty.  This week, we take a closer look at two such pairs from the Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society.


Flapper Style: Rebels in the 1920s

November 13th 2017

Rebellious and determined, flappers flirted, danced, smoked, and frequented speakeasies.  Much like their free spirits, the flapper dress style was a stark contrast to that of older generations.


Fancy Dress Parties- Costumes from the 19th Century

October 30th 2017

In the 19th century, costume parties were not just for Halloween.  In fact in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the "fancy dress" parties as they were called, were all the rage and hosted throughout the year.  People would throw fancy dress parties or balls and require guests to…


The Zouave Jacket Frenzy in the 1860s

October 23rd 2017

Military uniforms have influenced fashion throughout history and continue to do so today. In the mid-nineteenth century, Americans were taken with the French Zouave in the Crimean War as they were publicized in newspapers and magazines.  Americans were so enchanted by the Zouave that volunteer units for the Civil War…


Drag Queens and Dramatic Scenes

October 9th 2017

“When you become the image of your own imagination, it's the most powerful thing you could ever do.”


Little Boys in Pink Dresses

October 2nd 2017

Pink for a baby girl, blue for a boy, right? Not so, at least not until the twentieth century.  In fact age, not gender, dictated the type of clothing a child would wear.  Before age five to seven, boys and girls were dressed similarly, and their clothing was styled after…


Dressing an 18th Century Gown Today

September 25th 2017

1943.48.1 Gift of Miss Katherine S. Montell           How did women get dressed in the 18th century?  This question was recently answered by the Lady Lever Art Gallery and National Museums Liverpool with their video reenacting just that.  The video grew in populariaty with a feature on…


The Letty Lynton Effect

September 11th 2017

Throughout the history of film, there have been dresses that have become iconic, nearly eclipsing the film in which they were worn; Marilyn Monroe's white halter dress in The Seven Year Itch, Audrey Hepburn's black gown in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Molly Ringwald's pink floral dress in Pretty in Pink are all examples…


Fun in the Sun During the Roaring Twenties

September 4th 2017

The 1920s is a time known for scandalous dressing, and swimwear was no exception.  In honor of the last weekend of summer, today's post is dedicated to this lovely blue swimsuit from in the Fashion Archives here at the Maryland Historical Society. 


A Tarlatan Summer Dress

August 21st 2017

"There is nothing so graceful and pretty for a young person as a thin dress" 


All That Glitters: Regency Style and Metallic Trim

August 14th 2017

Fashions from 1800-1820 (the British Regency and the American Federal period) reflected the Neoclassical movement that had begun in the previous century. As in architecture and visual arts, women’s fashion emulated ancient Greek and Roman models.


Conserving Transitional Fashions: The 1910s at the MdHS Fashion Archive

August 9th 2017

The early 20th century was a time of dramatic change. During the 1910s, the United States became majority-urban for the first time in its history. Modernism and non-Western influences were reshaping art and architecture, and Western fashion reflects the technological and cultural changes of the era.


1810s Mourning Dress

August 8th 2017

As mentioned in a previous post, within Maryland Historical Society costume collection there exists a “study collection.” Curators accessioned garments and accessories into this collection often because they were incomplete ensembles or required conservation, but were still deemed useful for understanding costume history. When we process these “study” pieces, we…


Structured Beauties: Evolution of the Crinoline

August 2nd 2017

These structures influenced the construction and appearance of a garment and analyzing a dress’s intended silhouette provides a useful dating tool. One silhouette-altering structure was the cage crinoline, whose origins can be traced back to the 15th century.


Saving a 1790s Dress

July 26th 2017

Within the Maryland Historical Society’s costume archives, certain garments are accessioned into the “study collection.” Usually artifacts within this collection have serious alteration issues, missing pieces, or need of conservation. As implied by the name, garments within the study collection were open to the public for interpretation and analysis. Recently,…


Conservation Challenges in a 1910s Evening Dress

July 24th 2017

Western fashion changed dramatically during the first half of the 20th century, reflecting the other technological and cultural changes of the era. The materials used to create these dresses can make them challenging to conserve, store, and display. This evening dress from the 1910s illustrates the effects of stylistic trends…


Plastic Beads on a 1910s Summer Dress

July 19th 2017

Whenever we examine garments in the Maryland Historical Society’s costume collection, we pay close attention to their materials, which will impact how we process, store, and display the objects. Dresses made from natural fabrics like linen or wool need to be carefully checked for insect damage. Metal fasteners can stain…


A 1927 Evening Dress

July 17th 2017

Costume has the unique ability to create a connection between today’s person and our ancestors. By analyzing and researching the history behind the textile, one uncovers a new perspective about someone in the past’s life, which is what happened while processing a 1920s evening dress that belonged to Miss Eugenia…


A 1948 Wedding Dress

July 10th 2017

The objects in the Costume Collection of the Maryland Historical Society are a cross-section of Maryland life, reflecting changing trends and technological advances. Many garments entered the collection without information about the people who wore them or made them, so finding objects that do have such documentation is always exciting. 


The Hutzler Experience

July 5th 2017

  An atmosphere of nostalgia filled the Maryland Historical Society with the museum’s annual meeting's theme of remembrance, which showcased historic clips of Maryland history, one of which included “Behind the Scenes at Hutzler’s.” The costume collection team expanded upon this memorialization of the Hutzler’s department store by setting up…


An Introduction to Dress Mounting

July 5th 2017

      Preparing garments for display involves a blend of experience and creativity, as I learned this month during our preparations for Maryland Historical Society’s Annual Meeting on June 28th. Our display at the event featured objects from the now-closed Hutzler Brother's department store, including the dresses and coat…