Martha Berry Museum Offers Special Viewing of 1900s Fashions

On Monday, April 18, 2016, the Martha Berry Museum will offer the public an unprecedented opportunity to view antique fashions from their permanent collection. At 6:00pm, Alice Bristow, Assistant Professor of Theatre, Berry College, will lead an examination of two c. 1900 dresses that are believed to have belonged to Princess Eugenia Ruspoli, Martha Berry’s older sister.

The Martha Berry Museum’s historic garment collection contains dozens of antique dresses that date from the 1860s through the 1940s. The items belonged to various people, including Martha Berry and other family members. Maintained in storage because of their age and frailty, the dresses are rarely on display, and the museum can only show a fraction of the collection at any time.

Participants will learn about the art of dressmaking in an era when fashionable clothing for women was much more demanding than it is today. Viewed in the round, the items will be displayed on a table to allow guests to examine the garments in detail. Professor Bristow will lead a discussion of the two-part dresses, each comprised of a separate skirt and bodice. Guests will examine authentic whale boning, learn the difference between handmade and machine-made lace, and see delicate details of tailoring and extraordinary quality of construction.

The dresses are shown in conjunction with “Masterworks on the Move: A Traveling Exhibition of American Paintings from Wesleyan College,” on display at the Martha Berry Museum through April 22. Many of the paintings were created during the same period as the dresses, and some feature clothing reminiscent of the garments that will be on display. After the program, guests will be able to view the paintings to provide greater context of the world in which these dresses were actually worn.

Alice Bristow received her MFA in Costume Design from Indiana University and her B.F.A. from Missouri State University; she has produced costumes for many theatres, including La Jolla Playhouse, Indiana Repertory Theatre, University of Michigan, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Indianapolis Opera, University of Colorado at Boulder. Her experience in historic costume design has enabled professor Bristow to identify subtleties of construction that would have otherwise gone unnoticed; since 2012, she has worked with the Martha Berry Museum to identify, date and catalog these garments, and their attribution to Eugenia Ruspoli is based upon her scholarship.

The program begins at 6:00 p.m. and will last for approximately one hour. For more information, contact the Martha Berry Museum at 706-368-6789 or and visit Oak Hill & The Martha Berry Museum, part of Berry College, is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

Dresses in the Martha Berry Museum’s Collection

Dresses in the Martha Berry Museum’s Collection