There’s a new exhibit at the Visitor’s Center that will run through October 17. The temporary exhibit titled “Over and Under: Accessories and Undergarments of the Early 1800s” features original pieces that went under or over a person’s outfit to create the romantic look that people associate with the early 19th century. Accessories include a dignified top hat, a man’s tobacco pouch, and showy beaded purses, while rare undergarments will educate viewers about clothes not often seen in period art. Highlights include knit socks with the date “1819” on them, a corset and shift marked with the name of their owners, a “figure enhancer” used to strategically stuff a corset, and a pair of silk garters embroidered with the flirty French warning, “Halte la, on ne passe pas” which means “Stop here, go no further.”
The exhibit is designed to coincide with the JPPM 1812 Fair and Reenactment September 22, but the items exhibited show trends in fashion throughout the first half of the 19th century. The objects are not part of JPPM’s permanent collections, but instead came together based on loans offered by JPPM staff. Sara Rivers Cofield, Federal Curator at the MAC Lab, has been collecting clothing and purses since her grandmother, Charlotte Rivers, helped her buy her first antique purse over 20 years ago. Now family heirlooms from Charlotte Rivers, who died last October at the age of 99, are included in the exhibit. Betty Seifert, JPPM Curator, contributed her great grandmother’s knitting needles to the exhibit, and Michele Parlett, Public Services Coordinator, loaned the top hat and its carrying case from her family’s antique shop, Keeper’s Antiques, in Charlotte Hall, Maryland.
In order to flesh out the themes that the staff collections could illustrate, we turned to independent scholar and collector Mary Doering for some additional pieces. Mary, who teaches courses on costume history for the Smithsonian-George Mason University Masters Program on the History of Decorative Arts, often loans her collections to museums and historic sites, including current exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Civil War at the Maryland Historical Society. By combining the high-quality pieces in Mary’s collections with the personal heirlooms and collections of staff, the exhibit offers rare garments and accessories, eye candy, and personal stories. A little something for everyone!