The women’s items (trousseau dress, card case, day dress, dolman, and assembly gown) will be placed in the vitrine, with the quilt hanging in a protective case outside of the vitrine but still visually aligned with it.* The men’s items (18th and 19th century waistcoat and shoes) will be placed in freestanding cases facing the vitrine. The encased feminine objects will thus be subjected to the virtual gaze of the masculine objects, evoking women’s social roles as decorations for men and objects to be assessed. Exhibit visitors, capable of moving around the masculine objects and thus enjoying a more interactive relationship with them—while at the same time forced to look upon the feminine objects from a pre-determined perspective—will be implicated in this gaze.
The Centennial-related items (assembly gown, crazy quilt, and shoes) will be near to one another, and the 18th century waistcoat juxtaposed with the shoes which hearken back to its time period. The card case will be displayed beside the trousseau dress—the end of a marriage alongside a newlywed’s costume—and the dolman and assembly gown placed together due to the narrative of clothing as a marker of social status. As the middle piece, the day dress can speak to the commercial means by which messages of social status were conveyed.
The dresses will be placed on models; the waistcoats and dolman either suspended or on models; the shoes and card case elevated. The bustle of the trousseau dress, the bodice of the day dress, and the collar of the assembly gown should be emphasized with model positioning and modest spotlighting. The card, as well as the case, should be displayed. If possible, the position and lighting on the quilt should draw attention to the kimono-adorned figure (with that corner square hanging to the lower left, leaving the embroidered figure upright, or in the lower right, which tilts the figure but keeps the “L” upright).
Captions and historical information for exhibited items (other than the quilt) are drawn from classmates’ research and blogs.† I’ve tweaked captions where I wanted to emphasize some aspect of design or historical detail.
Trousseau dress: A trousseau dress was purchased for the bride to be worn during her honeymoon and newlywed phase. The newlywed was expected to wear the trousseau dress as a status symbol and tradition dictated she wear the dress the first time the couple entertained guests in their new home. The owner, a member of Philadelphia’s Creese family, traveled to Paris to have this lace-adorned dress custom made in 1888.
Card case and card: Jet, the remnant of ancient trees pressurized on the ocean floor, was mined in Europe. It can be polished, but dull jet was more appropriate for mourning. Jane Bright carried this jet beaded pocketbook as a widow. Her husband, Joseph, was a hardware merchant whose suburban Philadelphia business served coal mining operations.
Day dress: This two-piece day dress from the 1880s was designed by Augustine Martin in France and sold at Darlington, Runk & Co., a department store located at 1126-28 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. The level of detail indicates very high quality manufacture. The bodice reflects the modesty found in daytime attire and the slimmer bustle is indicative of the second bustle period. Any garment purchased from Darlington, Runk & Co. would have embodied a refined taste worthy of high society.
Dolman: Miss Rosalie Hassler wore this ivory dolman to an 1884 opera at the Academy of Music. The dolman’s brocade silk and chenille fringe, consistent with trends set by renowned designer Emile Pingat, asserted Rosalie’s position in Philadelphia society. Her status derived from and reflected that of her Jewish family, including her musician brothers.
Assembly gown: Fine silk, intricate goldwork threading, and a Renaissance collar highlight this 1875 assembly gown. These details hint at the high society clientele for which the garment was fashioned by Homer, Colladay & Co. of Philadelphia. The prominent Crozer family of Upland, Pennsylvania owned the gown at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.
Crazy quilt: Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition introduced Americans to Japanese aesthetics, including asymmetrical designs and the cracked glaze of “crazed” pottery. The creators of crazy quilts, many of them middle class women inspired by popular magazines, embraced irregularity, fan motifs, and other Japanese-inspired designs. Look closely and you can see an embroidered figure wearing a kimono and clogs.
Shoes: These mid-1870s quilted-satin ‘Colonial Revival’ shoes were part of a widespread wave of nostalgia for all things 18th century, embodied by the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. This first non-European “World’s Fair” included Revolutionary era military uniforms and a 1770s kitchen display. Nearly ten million visitors were encouraged to celebrate American independence.
18th century waistcoat: This 18th century satin waistcoat, English in design but American in manufacture, belonged to Captain William Brown. During the Revolutionary War, the Philadelphia resident led marine reinforcements to join General George Washington and fought alongside Washington’s battalion during the battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1776.
19th century waistcoat: Waistcoats played a large role in American society. They sent a message of dignity and civility. This velvet and silk waistcoat was most likely professionally tailored for Mr. Joseph Schipper. The quality and expense of the garment indicate an owner of upper class means.‡
The text of the introductory panel will emphasize the performance of social roles, specifically in Philadelphia and with special attention paid to the significance (locally and worldwide) of the Centennial. The exhibit should be accompanied by a credit panel, which should minimally identify Clare Sauro, other Drexel staff members, Seth Bruggeman, Jenifer Baldwin, Erin Bernard, Kelly Driscoll, Levi Fox, Brian McFadden, Jonathon Muhammad, Kyle Murray, Mike Plugh, and myself. A donor panel will include information drawn from Collection records. Some sort of special notation about particular Drexel connections (e.g. University president James Creese, whose family owned the trousseau dress, or alumnae Louise Beck, donor of the crazy quilt) may also be desirable. A “more information” panel or paragraph can direct visitors to a Web site, and should also be included in any printed matter related to the exhibit.
The wall opposite the vitrine should be adorned with archival images, including photographs of Darlington, Runk & Co., the Academy of Music (especially if there are any materials related to the 1884 production of Les Huguenots), the Bright Bryn Mawr estate, reproductions of pages from women’s magazines (Godey’s or Peterson’s), and images of the Philadelphia Centennial (particularly those relating to Colonial Revival and Japanese “crazed” pottery and asymmetrical textile designs). Period photographs and maps of Philadelphia, portraits of the donors, and detail photographs of the objects (e.g. the kimono-wearing figure, date and initial, or random bits of embroidery on the quilt; the interior tag of the 18th century waistcoat; the Homer, Colladay & Co. ribbon in the assembly gown) can also be used as informative elements.
Audio recordings will provide an alternate way of interacting with the objects, an accommodation for the visually impaired, and a means of drawing visitors away from the cases while keeping them within the exhibit space. The text of each panel should be available in audio format. Additional verbiage may also be created: an expansion upon design elements mentioned in the caption panels, biographical details of the individuals who wore the costumes, descriptions of the preservation process, or details about the life of the objects in the Collection. Audio content may be delivered at the push of a button, via a headset, or via smart phone app.
Social media can be used to raise awareness of the exhibits and Collection. Information about exhibit scheduling, object details, and whimsical diversions can be disseminated in this manner.
Supplementary information will appear on a Web site. This can include the text of the exhibit panels, audio recordings, photographs of the objects, archival images, and the object histories developed over the course of the semester. The Web resources, like social media, can be used to encourage visitor feedback, but most significantly will provide a persistent record of exhibit-related material.
† Jenifer Baldwin (card case, 1909), Erin Bernard (dolman, 1884), Kelly Driscoll (trousseau dress, 1888), Levi Fox (shoes, 1870s), Brian McFadden (18th century waistcoat, 1757), Jonathon Muhammad (19th century waistcoat, 1850), Kyle Murray (day dress, 1880), Mike Plugh (assembly gown, 1875).
‡ I’m not sure if we know anything else about Schipper, specifics of a Philadelphia connection, etc., but if so I’d like to expand the caption to include it.