Exhibition | Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on March 3, 2018

Now on view at the Concord Museum:

Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750–1900
Concord Museum, 2 March — 8 July 2018

Curated by Jane Nylander and Richard Nylander with David Wood

The Concord Museum unveils a portion of its extensive historic clothing collection for the first time, along with textiles and decorative arts in a new exhibition, Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750–1900, on view from March 2 until July 8, 2018.

As part of the state-wide MASS Fashion collaborative project, the exhibition examines questions about the sources and context of small-town Massachusetts fashion through the Museum’s extensive historic clothing, textile, and decorative arts collection, as well as probate inventories, account books, advertisements, photographs, and letters and diaries of the period. Material culture historians Jane and Richard Nylander are the consulting curators for the exhibition. In careers spent reconstructing New England’s material past, the Nylanders have unearthed remarkable historical evidence and developed fresh and original interpretations on a wide variety of subjects.

Clothing conveys information about the wearer’s gender, age, rank, and wealth, as well as clues about subtler categories, such as taste, education, marital status, and aspiration. Through twenty evocative documented outfits, the exhibition will consider the shopping habits of Concordians in the 18th and 19th centuries. Included in the exhibition are pieces made at home with fabric purchased at shops on Concord’s main street, or made at the local workplaces of seamstresses, tailors, and milliners; or purchased in Boston, New York, London, or Paris. Through close looking at these rare and rarely-displayed artifacts, visitors will be encouraged to compare their own conventions for consuming clothing to people’s practices in the past.

The accessories and services available through the 18th- and 19th-century shops on Concord’s Milldam (the main street of the town), including mantua (dress) makers, tailors, hatters, and boot and shoe makers, will also be explored. In addition, visitors will be able to virtually ‘shop’ the Museum’s historic clothing collection through a specially designed interactive experience that utilizes an online shopping platform.

The title, Fresh Goods, is taken from a November 1816 newspaper ad for the Concord shop of Josiah Davis announcing the sale of fabrics such as figured flannels, crimson bombazettes, and white and black cambricks. The exhibition will be accompanied by a broad range of engaging public programs for both adults and children.

S E L E C T E D  P R O G R A M M I N G

The Indigenous Look: Attire in 18th-Century Massachusetts
Thursday, 3 May 2018, 7:00pm

Aquinnah Wampanoag artist and designer Elizabeth James-Perry will discuss the period from 1750 to 1900 in terms of Indigenous Massachusetts attire and jewelry. While preferences often continued for use of soft smoked deerskin, elk and textured moose for clothing and sturdy footwear, along with a variety of furs and indigenous textiles, decreasing availability of some materials—especially in the 18th century—led to interesting combinations and substitutions of Native and Euro-American styles and materials. Click here for more information.

Transgressing the Color Line: Depictions of Free Blacks in the Popular Press
Thursday, 10 May 2018, 7:00pm

Join writer and historian Jonathan Michael Square as he analyzes images of free Africans Americans in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston that appeared in the popular press. Specifically, a series of cartoons published in the early nineteenth century used to arouse Northern anti-black fears that free blacks might be threatening the racial, sexual, and class hierarchies. Fashion will be the central analytic as free blacks were often depicted as dandified buffoons. He will show how the overly fashioned bodies of the free blacks in northern metropolises transgressed and threatened the, until then, established slavocratic order. In partnership with the Robbins House. Click here for more information.

Shift, Stays, and Pannier
Thursday, 31 May 2018, 7:00pm

Join historians and living history interpreters Linda Greene and Michele Gabrielson for an in depth look at how women got dressed every day in the 1700s. They will explore the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of a typical 18th-century woman’s dress from a common, lower to middling class status to an upper class persona. Each layer of clothing will be discussed with a focus on fabric, style, and purpose. Perfect for anyone interested in colonial era costume or the lives of women in the 18th century. Click here for more information.