Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on April 13, 2013
The “New Woman” Exhibit at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, Washington, D.C.
This weekend I have been spending the most wonderful time in my old stomping grounds of Washington, D.C.! I love the history and famous landmarks here, but my favorite element of this city is the wide array of costumes on display! In this blog post I will attempt to show the best of around three hundred photographs taken in the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum during their new exhibit, “The New Woman”. I just about squealed when I entered this expansive exhibit! There was so much exquisite femininity in the fashions of the early 1900s, and I know you will love these dresses as much as I do! (Please note that the museum does not allow flash photography to be used, so the photos were taken under somewhat low lighting I also used two different cameras to take these pictures, so the colors may vary slightly depending on which camera was used for a particular shot.)
The “New Woman” exhibit is an elegant display of several dozen drop-dead gorgeous gowns in impeccably pristine condition! Mainly portraying the 1890s-1910s, these breathtaking works of art rival even the world-renowned costumes displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum, or the Fashion Museum in Bath, England.
The 1888 Silk Evening Gown
This first gown is an 1888 evening gown made from peach silk brocade and Brussels lace. It features a lovely train in back and a crystal brooch on the drape front overskirt. The bodice is brilliantly fitted and looks so lovely with the high collar in back and numerous buttons down the basque front.
The silk brocade is almost reminiscent of fall leaves, and I think the color combination is so very rich and warm. I love the tassel trim on the gown front, too!
The Pink & Cream Lacy “Avonlea” Style Gown
This next gown is one of my absolute favorites ever! It is a frothy creation of pink silk batiste, lace ruffles, taffeta underneath and embroidery. This dreamy dress is very similar to the gown Diana Barry wore in Anne of Avonlea, and which I recreated here. The DAR Museum dates this piece somewhere between 1904 and 1906.
Look at those gorgeous ruffles of cotton lace!! The tab trim on the sleeves is amazing, and the details are impeccable! What phenomenal amounts of lace and hand embroidery. How I wish the town was full of ladies walking around in dresses like these! Can you imagine what a prettier place the world would have been in the Edwardian era?
The pleats are stitched down on the skirt front. At the bottom of the dress the whole skirt ends in several layers of wide tucks. This is a “Martha Pullen” sort of gown all the way!
The 1896 Day Dress
Here’s a lovely late-Victorian day dress made from a charming cotton print that reminds me very much of a “Laura Ashley” design. The striking purple silk twill makes a lovely contrast for the more subdued cotton fabric, and it would be a wonderful dress to wear in colder weather – that is, if you have a 24.5″ waist!
Below is the DAR Musuem’s description of this dress. I’m so glad that the museum curator does such a fabulous job! (Alden O’Brien, the curator, just wrote a book about the New Woman exhibit which I picked up while at the museum. I highly recommend it! It’s for sale on their website here.)
A Black and White Edwardian Afternoon Dress
If a woman was to wear a tuxedo, this is what it should look like!
This lovely black and white afternoon dress, (dated 1907-1911), is a classy combination of black silk twill and white hand-made lace. The bodice front/yoke inset is overlaid with netting that is pin-tucked horizontally, while the bodice front and back and trimmed with simple black buttons. Overall, this ensemble reminds me very strongly of some outfits which actress Jane Wyman wore in the Edwardian movie Pollyanna.
The Shirred Silk Tulle Gown
Believe it or not, the DAR Museum claims that this would have been an afternoon dress! Can you imagine? Nowadays we don’t even use materials this delicate even for most wedding gowns.
Silk tulle, after all, is one of the most fragile fabrics I’ve ever handled. It retails at around $140.00 per yard for the heirloom quality stuff (at 36″ wide), and snags and shreds like nothing else I’ve ever seen. So to stand in front of this gown and see the silk tulle in near-mint condition was astonishing for me. I realize that it’s only the bodice overlay and delicate sleeves that are made of this almost gossamer material, but it’s still nothing short of remarkable that this piece is in museum-quality condition.
The shirred and tucked bodice is so adorable, but the printed silk skirt is just gorgeous, as well! I love the scalloped overskirt that trimmed with black silk organza ruffles. Could anything possibly get prettier?
Well, it’s well after midnight here so I ought to turn in for the evening, but I promise to post pictures of dresses at least this gorgeous next time! I’ll definitely add a “Part 2” to this article soon, but next up is what I wore at the White House… I’ll try not to spoil the surprise, but it was a costume experience unlike anything I’ve ever had.
I’ll be posting again soon, and you won’t want to miss it!
Have a wonderful day,