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Vintage lingerie dresses on display at Putnam History Museum
Lace-trimmed “lingerie dresses” are the star attraction at Putnam History Museum’s “Summer Afternoon” costume exhibit, a presentation of summer fashions worn by local high society from the Victorian era to the mid-20th century.
“Summer Afternoon” shows the evolution of style – from intricate Victorian attire to what the museum describes as “streamlined social wear of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.” The lingerie dresses are at the heart of the exhibit – so-called because they are made of the same material as undergarments. They are a stark contrast to the heavy, ornate clothing from the previous era, and the more casual styles that came afterward.
Lingerie dresses were simple, cotton garments that were worn to events like garden parties, luncheons and tea times. The 30 garments and undergarments, as well as the half-dozen accessories on display, all originally were owned by local residents.
“I’m always very touched by the idea of how these dresses were handed down from mother to daughter,” said Mindy Krazmien, the executive director of the Putnam History Museum. “It’s the women who have been keepers of this piece of history, and it’s just fascinating to see.”
“Because [the exhibition] spans 100 years, you can see the way women’s fashion has changed,” Krazmien said. “It’s a true reflection of the social changes of the time when clothing moved away from the elaborate, restricted clothing of the Victorian age.”
Guest curator and Fashion Institute of Technology professor Dr. Lourdes Font worked with a team of graduate students in conserving and displaying the costumes.
“It’s an elaborate process,” Krazmien said. Instead of just draping the costumes over mannequins, students retrofitted mannequins so the costumes fit exactly how they would have on the person originally wearing them.
“You want the dress to come to life, so everything fills the dress perfectly,” Krazmien said.
The exhibit was supported by popular lingerie line Hanky Panky, whose founder, Gale Epstein, resides in the Hudson Valley.
Inspired by the “Summer Afternoon” exhibit, Hanky Panky designed a limited-edition collection featuring simple cotton nightgowns, bandeaus, wraps and other modern versions of what is now on display at the Putnam History Museum. Those items are available for purchase on the Hanky Panky website as well as area stores Elizabeth Boutique in Poughkeepsie, Boo Girls in Katonah or Out of the Blue Clothing Inc. in Mount Kisco.
IF YOU GO
Where: "Summer Afternoon" exhibit at The Putnam History Museum.
When: The exhibit is open until Dec. 9.
Info: 63 Chestnut St., Cold Spring; 845-265-4010; pchs-fsm.org. $5 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, $2 for kids ages 7-12; kids 6 and under are admitted free. Admission is free to members and donors.