Northern Threads: Silhouetts in Sequence, ca. 1780-1889

Lucia Wadsworth's "assembly dress," Portland, ca. 1799

Lucia Wadsworth's "assembly dress," Portland, ca. 1799

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

No historic clothing exhibition is complete without a timeline of silhouettes. While perhaps cliché, historic garments—especially womenswear—are more easily understood in progression. The evolution in silhouette represents contemporary influences, changing social attitudes, and how the past impacts the present. Trends, along with fabrics and construction elements, are important tools when dating historic clothing.

While it is convenient to think of fashion in decades or eras, not all clothing fits into these categories. Trends or transitions provide some indication to a garment’s position on the fashion compendium, but it is important to note that beyond personal taste and preferences, budget, age, gender, and social position influenced whether individuals had access or the ability to participate in new trends.

This vingette explores a general evolution of fashion trends from about 1775 through the 1880s. During this period, London, Paris, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. society influenced Maine fashion. These exhibited examples explore fashion influences, speak to the collection’s strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrate how trends are used as a research tool.

This sequence vignette is part of Northern Threads: Two centuries of dress at Maine Historical Society, a two-part exhibition at MHS in 2022. Navigate the online components by using the links below.

Return to Part I

Return to Part I

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Friendly URL: https://www.mainememory.net/exhibits/sequence1780-1889