I visited Williamsburg, VA as a child of nine. I have, sadly, never managed to get back there. Still, it remains indelibly etched on my memory. It was the first place I ever went where living history was practiced, including crafts of the period. I was entranced. Funnily enough, my single strongest memory of the time I spent there (probably two or three days, all told) is of a silversmith with an amazingly long pinkie fingernail. I was in awe of that nail. I think of it every time I clip mine.
When not fetishizing fingernails, I was quite taken with the clothing, the way the cooking was done, and dozens of other everyday details of life in the eighteenth century. My brother the medieval historian was somewhat obsessed with the stocks and pillories while my brother the alpaca rancher would tell explain to everyone in great detail how, for instance, paper was marbled or glass was blown. He has an analytical mind and a passion for detail. He would watch a single artisan for a couple hours and then move on to the next one that caught his eye.
It’s those details of everyday life – and particularly everyday dress – that continue to captivate me. So imagine my delight when I went by the official website today and found that the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum has just announced an exhibit of costume accessories dating up to 1840!
If you check out the video here, you’ll get to see glimpses of all manner of fabulous goodies of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: handkerchiefs, jewelry, leather pocketbooks, hats, gloves, stockings, and even ladies’ pockets (in the eighteenth century, women wore separate pockets under their skirts to carry things like purses and hankies). Whatever your crafting interest, you’re sure to see something to admire or inspire.
And if you get the chance to go and see the show, please tell me all about it.