Northern Threads: Two centuries of dress at Maine Historical Society

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Northern Threads Part I: ca. 1780-1889

Northern Threads is a two-part exhibition featuring clothing from ca. 1780 through ca. 1980. Part I examines fashions from about 1780 until 1889, the MHS historic clothing collection's first one hundred years. It includes garments, military uniforms and accessories, organized into themed vignettes. The in-person physical exhibition of Northern Threads Part I ran from March until July 2022. A virtual tour is hosted on this site.

Parts I and II each feature a signature garment, meant to represent an iconic fashion trend from their respective one hundred years. Hannah P. Adam of Belfast's beautifully embroidered dress stands as the signature piece for Part I.

Adams' ensemble of lightweight camel colored wool exemplifies an extreme and short-lived mid-19th century bustle skirt style known as the cuirasse. The French word for fitted military metal armor, cuirasse aptly describes the long, tightly fitted body and hip hugging jacket, called a basque, which divides at the back to accommodate walking. It features a bunched low-slung bustle.

Designed by Boston dressmaker W.H. Bigelow, the garment is trimmed throughout with colorful hand-embroidered floral sprays, and chenille bobble fringe. The embroidery evokes daisies, berries, wheat, cattails and poppies. Hannah P. Adams (1855-1935) reportedly embroidered the dress herself, supported by evidence the embroidery was applied after the dress’ construction.

View all Northern Threads Part I's themed vignettes using the links below.

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