Classy Women (and Men) of the 19th Century

Aug 27

Mrs. Lincoln, though only roughly 5 feet tall, enjoyed wearing opulent, bold ball gowns with long trains that were known to cost up to $2,000 each. Many of her dresses were low-cut and reflected popular European styles of the time, particularly that of Empress Eugénie of France. Image: Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1860-ca. 1865. National Archives Identifier: 529952

Mrs. Lincoln, though only roughly 5 feet tall, enjoyed wearing opulent, bold ball gowns with long trains that were known to cost up to $2,000 each. Many of her dresses were low-cut and reflected popular European styles of the time, particularly that of Empress Eugénie of France. Image: Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1860-ca. 1865. National Archives Identifier: 529952

Aug 26

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq
Prima ballerina Tanny Le Clercq—possibly the greatest American dancer of the twentieth century—became a polio victim in her late twenties. Her life history and the incredible set of circumstances that surrounded her tragic fall are recounted in the film through archival footage and documents. The film’s director, Nancy Buirski, will introduce the screening. (2013, 91 minutes) 
Presented in partnership with the National Gallery of Art.
Thursday, August 28, at 7 p.m. at William G. McGowan Theatre.
Photo Courtesy of Kino Lorber. 

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq

Prima ballerina Tanny Le Clercq—possibly the greatest American dancer of the twentieth century—became a polio victim in her late twenties. Her life history and the incredible set of circumstances that surrounded her tragic fall are recounted in the film through archival footage and documents. The film’s director, Nancy Buirski, will introduce the screening. (2013, 91 minutes)

Presented in partnership with the National Gallery of Art.

Thursday, August 28, at 7 p.m. at William G. McGowan Theatre.

Photo Courtesy of Kino Lorber. 

David Hough Jr., introduced the first caged crinoline— more commonly known as the hoop skirt— in 1846. Through the mid 1800s, it was fashionable for women to wear multiple petticoats to create the full, dome-shape, small-waist silhouette. During the late 1800s, however, hoop skirts like this one lightened the weight of multiple petticoats by creating the same silhouette but with fewer layers. Image: Drawing of Improvements in Hoop Skirts, 04/02/1861. National Archives Identifier: 4531662

David Hough Jr., introduced the first caged crinoline— more commonly known as the hoop skirt— in 1846. Through the mid 1800s, it was fashionable for women to wear multiple petticoats to create the full, dome-shape, small-waist silhouette. During the late 1800s, however, hoop skirts like this one lightened the weight of multiple petticoats by creating the same silhouette but with fewer layers. Image: Drawing of Improvements in Hoop Skirts, 04/02/1861. National Archives Identifier: 4531662

Aug 25

We’re continuing our six weeks of style and moving on from the fashion of the Revolutionary War to the men and women of the nineteenth century.
Check out that beard and mustache! According to some historians, the hairy trend can be attributed to the popularization of Victorian ideals. Prominent facial hair was gradually considered to be an outward, physical expression of masculinity. If you want to learn more about this facial hair frenzy during the Civil War era, take a look at today’s Pieces of History post. Image: Gen. George S. Greene, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865. National Archives Identifier: 527885.

We’re continuing our six weeks of style and moving on from the fashion of the Revolutionary War to the men and women of the nineteenth century.

Check out that beard and mustache! According to some historians, the hairy trend can be attributed to the popularization of Victorian ideals. Prominent facial hair was gradually considered to be an outward, physical expression of masculinity. If you want to learn more about this facial hair frenzy during the Civil War era, take a look at today’s Pieces of History post. Image: Gen. George S. Greene, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865. National Archives Identifier: 527885.

Aug 22

Peggy Shippen, or Margaret Shippen, was the second wife of General Benedict Arnold— one of his alleged partners in his military conspiracy. Born into a prestigious Philadelphia family with Loyalist tendencies, she became acquainted with Arnold while he was military commander of the city following the British withdrawal in 1778. In this portrait, her embellished gown and heightened hair reflect the fashion trends of the colonial era. National Archives Identifier: 530957

Peggy Shippen, or Margaret Shippen, was the second wife of General Benedict Arnold— one of his alleged partners in his military conspiracy. Born into a prestigious Philadelphia family with Loyalist tendencies, she became acquainted with Arnold while he was military commander of the city following the British withdrawal in 1778. In this portrait, her embellished gown and heightened hair reflect the fashion trends of the colonial era. National Archives Identifier: 530957

Women’s History on the Horizon: The Centennial of Woman Suffrage in 2020
In commemoration of Women’s Equality Day and the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this discussion considers how nearly one hundred years of voting rights have impacted present-day political, social, and economic roles for women. Presented in partnership with the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum.
The discussion will be streamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2t48I3j004.
Tuesday, August 26, at 7 p.m. at the William G. McGowan Theatre.  
Photo courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum.

Women’s History on the Horizon: The Centennial of Woman Suffrage in 2020

In commemoration of Women’s Equality Day and the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this discussion considers how nearly one hundred years of voting rights have impacted present-day political, social, and economic roles for women. Presented in partnership with the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum.

The discussion will be streamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2t48I3j004.

Tuesday, August 26, at 7 p.m. at the William G. McGowan Theatre.  

Photo courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum.

Aug 21

Pictured above is Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854), the wife of Alexander Hamilton who served as US Secretary of the Treasury during the Georgetown Washington administration. Elizabeth was born in Albany, N.Y. and was the second child of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler. Although women of the 18th century rarely wore wigs, they increasingly hired professional hairdressers to add false hair to their natural hair, thus augmenting it with padding, powder, and ornaments. Other common items for hair decoration included plumes, feathers, “mock garland,” silk ribbons, and artificial flowers. A high forehead was also part of the fashion, so hair was often brushed back severely from the forehead. National Archives Identifier: 532936

Pictured above is Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854), the wife of Alexander Hamilton who served as US Secretary of the Treasury during the Georgetown Washington administration. Elizabeth was born in Albany, N.Y. and was the second child of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler. Although women of the 18th century rarely wore wigs, they increasingly hired professional hairdressers to add false hair to their natural hair, thus augmenting it with padding, powder, and ornaments. Other common items for hair decoration included plumes, feathers, “mock garland,” silk ribbons, and artificial flowers. A high forehead was also part of the fashion, so hair was often brushed back severely from the forehead. National Archives Identifier: 532936

Aug 20

Before serving as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress, and then served the state as a wartime Governor (1779–1781). Although his natural hair color was usually described as sandy or red, Jefferson often wore it dressed and powered white, a common fashion practice for men at the time. In fact, in a letter he wrote to his grandson in Philadelphia from his Virginia estate, Jefferson implored, “I must pray you to put half a dozen pounds of scented hair powder into the same box. None is to be had here, and it is almost a necessary life with me.” Looks like even our Founding Fathers could not escape the prominent fashion trends of the colonial era! National Archives Identifier: 518078

Before serving as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress, and then served the state as a wartime Governor (1779–1781). Although his natural hair color was usually described as sandy or red, Jefferson often wore it dressed and powered white, a common fashion practice for men at the time. In fact, in a letter he wrote to his grandson in Philadelphia from his Virginia estate, Jefferson implored, “I must pray you to put half a dozen pounds of scented hair powder into the same box. None is to be had here, and it is almost a necessary life with me.” Looks like even our Founding Fathers could not escape the prominent fashion trends of the colonial era! National Archives Identifier: 518078

Aug 19

Baroness Riedesel was the wife of General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel of Brunswick, a German state in the Holy Roman Empire. The Baroness accompanied her husband during the Saratoga Campaign in the American Revolutionary War and kept a journal of the campaign. In this picture, she is seen wearing a Brunswick gown, also simply known as the Brunswick. This style dress was a two-piece costume of German origin consisting of a hip-length jacket with “split sleeves” (flounced elbow-length sleeves and long, tight lower sleeves) and a hood, worn with a matching petticoat. It was also popular in England and the U.S. for traveling. National Archives Identifier: 530956

Baroness Riedesel was the wife of General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel of Brunswick, a German state in the Holy Roman Empire. The Baroness accompanied her husband during the Saratoga Campaign in the American Revolutionary War and kept a journal of the campaign. In this picture, she is seen wearing a Brunswick gown, also simply known as the Brunswick. This style dress was a two-piece costume of German origin consisting of a hip-length jacket with “split sleeves” (flounced elbow-length sleeves and long, tight lower sleeves) and a hood, worn with a matching petticoat. It was also popular in England and the U.S. for traveling. National Archives Identifier: 530956

Aug 18

Benjamin Lincoln was an American army officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is notable for his involvement in three major surrenders during the war: Battle of Saratoga, 1780 Siege of Charleston, and the British surrender at Yorktown. The sword Lincoln is sporting is depicted in typical army officers’ fashion. Army officers typically carried two different swords. One is used for full dress—mostly ceremonial in character, as in this picture—and the other used primarily in hand-to-hand combat. National Archives Identifier: 530962

Benjamin Lincoln was an American army officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is notable for his involvement in three major surrenders during the war: Battle of Saratoga, 1780 Siege of Charleston, and the British surrender at Yorktown. The sword Lincoln is sporting is depicted in typical army officers’ fashion. Army officers typically carried two different swords. One is used for full dress—mostly ceremonial in character, as in this picture—and the other used primarily in hand-to-hand combat. National Archives Identifier: 530962