Fashions in Fiction, the newest exhibit at the museum’s John L. Wehle Gallery, artfully brings together characters from classic literature with period clothing and accessories.
More than 100 artifacts are on view for the first time in this exploration of popular fashions through celebrated 19th-century fiction. Together, the books and the clothes form a portal leading the viewer closer to those who came before.
Though their prose may often seem complex in this age of texts and tweets, read it carefully and you will discover the common threads that weave the generations together.
Like today, our predecessors dreamed of worlds, old and new; of adventure and romance. They fantasied about time travel and possibilities that scientific discoveries might yield.
They puzzled over mysteries and wiled away a winter’s night with tales of romance, humor and wit. Sentimental stories warmed the heart; novels of social protest galvanized the nation.
Authors often shaped their character through both subtle and calculated references to the clothing of their fictional corps dramatique. The dramatic sweep of a cloak, the rustling of a petticoat or the cocky angle of a hat set a mood or defined and revealed much about the hero and heroine.
Using the Greene Costume Collection, the gallery presents some of the most beloved characters of popularly read 19th-century books.
Among the best and/or constant sellers included in the exhibit are: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (ghost story) by Washington Irving, Jane Eyre (Gothic romance/mystery) by Charlotte Bronte, Kidnapped (adventure) by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Virginian (Western) by Owen Wister, A Christmas Carol (time travel) by Charles Dickens, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (social protest) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Invisible Man (sci-fi) by H. G. Wells, Around the World in 80 Days, (techno-adventure) by Jules Verne, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (humor) by Mark Twain, The Red Badge of Courage (realism) by Stephen Crane and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (detective) by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The gallery is also celebrating the publication of Wearable Prints, the life-long study by Susan Greene, founder of the collection. Visitors can discover vibrant examples of printed textiles in all their colorful glory arranged in exhibit and study cases.