What we do know about Ida Jackson can be found in an intriguing and beautiful diary found in the Brooklyn Museum Library’s Special Collections. The book came into the Museum’s collection in 1945 from Lawrence B. Romaine, who wrote an accompanying text about Ida Jackson. The book offers a view into an American woman’s life from 1858 to 1917 as well as insight into what women wore during that time period.
Beyond handwritten inscriptions you would normally expect to find in a diary, Ida Jackson’s Diary contains: photographs of herself, her family and friends as well as her homes and church, programs from musical soirées and postcards. The diary also includes clippings from 19th century fashion magazines showing images of a variety of dresses, skirts, shirts and entire outfits.
But what I feel is most compelling about this book are the remarkably well-preserved fabric swatches and trimming samples Ida cut from her own clothing throughout her life and carefully glued onto the page. Having been enclosed in the pages of this book for all of these years the fabric and trimming samples have been protected from the harmful fading effects of light exposure so these swatches and samples seem as vivid as the day they were worn. One really should see the book in person to appreciate the tactile quality of the swatches and to experience the charm of the entire document. You can visit the us to see the original document by sending an e-mail.
The first page of the diary, which Ida assembled in retrospect, is dated 1858 when she was 3 years old. The book continues to tell her story up to the final entry in 1917 when she was 62, she died in 1927. The inscriptions which are found throughout the book reveal a number of clues which intertwine personal memories with fashion history.
Clues about the dresses history:
“Formerly mamma’s first dress papa brought for her after their marriage.”
Clues about the use of the outfit:
“Cycling and rainy day dress, trimmed with black and braid panel.”
Clues about popular fashions at the time:
“Wore above draped over black mohair skirt when overskirts began to come into fashion.”
Facsimile pages from Ida Jackson’s Dress Diary will be on view at Proteus Gowanus in their MEND exhibition which opens tomorrow.
Keith DuQuette is the Museum Libraries Preservation Associate. He came to the museum in 1987. He is responsible for overseeing the physical care of the diverse and wonderful research collections of the Art Reference, Wilbour Libraries and Museum Archives. Additionally, he is the author and illustrator of seven children’s books.