Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail

Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail

Last week I visited the Milne Special Collections Archives and University Museum on the first floor of the Dimond Library. I was lucky enough to catch the Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail exhibit before it closes next week. Victorian fashion, I learned through my exploration of the gallery, prizes the flourishing of a garment through the incorporation of various decorations; however, the product, Victorian dresses and the like, are a result of the combination of fashion principles. A major contributing factor to these beautiful pieces is the use of “self-trim.” This concept allows for several sewing/decorating techniques to enrich the apparel, through layering, color content and texture contrast. The pieces displayed, by the Irma Bowen Textile Collection, have been collected since the early 20th century to be studied and restored.

Walking through the exhibit, I was able to study the multiple elements of design used during the Victorian time, such as ruching, contrast, and applique. Moving into a room with dressed toting countless uses, I was able to see these techniques come to life. My favorite, however, was a wedding dress worn by Johanna Peterson. According to the exhibit, “the story of the dress is one of American immigrant success. Johanna and Jens Peterson married in Bedford, Massachusetts in 1893, both emigres from Denmark.” Since, at that time, many women could not afford a perfectly white wedding dress, they would choose their best dress and embellish it with folds and details. Their grandson was Walter Peterson, a college president and the 72nd governor of New Hampshire. Also on displays are bodices, blouses, capes and bonnets.

This exhibit closes on December 14th, so take a break from finals stress, hurry over to Dimond Library and check it out!