Civil War Living History Event: Fashion Try-On

This event has passed: See the “try on” photos from this Event 

If there is one period of women’s clothing that is easily recognizable by most people, it is the mid-19th century. Those wide hoop skirts and tiny waists send us immediately to a time punctuated by the tragedy of the American Civil War. Visions of Scarlet O’Hara can’t help but intrude on our minds and the desire to float through a room in one of these elegant dresses is strong. The current exhibit at The Charleston Museum, Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War, displays some of these astonishing garments and the special program this Saturday will satisfy those urges.

Brown ribbed silk dress, 1860s

In the exhibit is a stunning brown silk dress from the peak of this style and was probably worn by Elizabeth Heyward Trapier who lived in the Lowcountry from 1832 until 1906. Her beautiful dress has a fitted bodice with darts to enhance the tiny waist effect, dropped shoulder seams, a jewel neckline and of course a huge but smooth skirt. On display, her dress stands near a tasteful black coat worn by her first husband, James Heyward Trapier. He died shortly after the war ended in 1865 and Elizabeth married a second time, to Theodore Dehon Jervey, in whose family the clothing descended.

Wool dress, 1860s

Another interesting dress in the exhibit is black wool with tiny purple flowers overall. It was worn by Evaline Sarah Watkins Walton. She was in her sixties during the war and the styling of this garment reflects that chosen by an older woman. The fan-front bodice is less fitted and the neckline would be perfect for adding a modest chemisette. While the skirt is still very full, she may not have worn a hoop for more comfortable home attire. The dress was made by Evaline’s daughter, Mary Louisa Walton Robertson, who was born in 1820.

Civil War Living History Event: Fashion Try-On 
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. 

While we have some try-on garments associated with the exhibit,
Saturday’s event is an opportunity to wear the complete outfit, from
hoop to hat. The Carolina Ladies Aid Society (a group of
dedicated Civil War researchers and re-enactors) will bring women’s,
men’s and children’s clothing, undergarments and accessories for the
proper period look. They will have a photographic studio set up so you
can take your picture and preserve your new appearance. Join us from 10 am – 1 pm this Saturday, January 8, for a chance to step back to the 1860s and experience the height of fashion. 

Bring your family, friends and camera for this fun and educational experience.
Free with admission to The Charleston Museum. (event info) 

Related Post: See Photos from this Event