Friday, October 19th, 2018

Victorian fashion and industry exhibit

Posted on September 21, 2015 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Anora Morton / Contributor


Walking through the Old Port today, you can’t always tell what people are doing from the clothes they are wearing. Over 200 years ago, it was a very different story. Walking down the street, you could tell who was visiting a friend, who was simply out for a walk, and who was from the country, all based off their style of dress. The Way We Wear, an exhibit in the Victoria Mansion’s carriage house, explores this phenomenon in great detail.

Curated by Lucinda Hannington, The Way We Wear showcases the complex world of Victorian dressing habits of the period’s women. The exhibit is immersive, with carpet cut outs that can be stood upon to demonstrate the girth of different styles of dresses, and a reproduction dress you can pull apart magnetically to explore the many layers of fabric and petticoats, which is actually where the exhibit started.

One of our volunteers who said she would like build a replica dress in a way that would allow people to see the different layers that went into nineteenth century fashion. From there, we bounced ideas around at our staff meetings, and the exhibit grew to include a social context for fashion as well as the dress itself,” said Hannington. The exhibit also has a full case of authentic accessories and cut-out hairstyles for guests to try on for themselves.

Today every coach bag and designer gown has a counterfeit counterpart, and Hannington connects this same practice to the Victorian women. The conception of the department store drew customers away from private tailors.

Customization of existing clothes with elaborate trims and accessories also led more women to be able to update their older clothes and stay more in line with current fashions without having to spend as much as they would on a whole new dress,” explained Hannington.

The Way We Wear is open to the public, free of admission until October 31st, and the full tour of the Victoria Mansion is only $7 with a student ID. The Victoria Mansion is located at 109 Danforth St, Portland ME, and is open from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. So if you can’t make it to this year’s fashion week, or want to explore the fashion of the past, be sure to check out The Way We Wear.

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