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American Summer & Sport Clothing of the 19th Century

DATES May 18, 1939 through October 01, 1939
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  • May 17, 1939 An exhibition of summer and sport clothing in 19th Century America opens on May 17th at the Brooklyn Museum, to run through October 1st. All the costumes come from the Museum’s large collection. There are eighteen complete costumes shown, with hats and accessories. The exhibition is shown in the Balcony Gallery.

    The ladies’ afternoon and morning dresses on view would be, in several cases, quite wearable today, with “Sarah Bernhardt” bustles, detachable capes, and flounces. The hats include two of the “pancake” shape liberally trimmed with flowers, from about Civil War time, and an 1880 example with a “Happy Hooligan”-shaped crown familiar to everyone this season.

    The number of plaid and checked materials used in that period is evidence of the eternal popularity of those patterns. Several dresses shown are lavishly trimmed with eyelet embroidery, another popular style today. Other materials familiar to fashion enthusiasts of 1939, which are included in this exhibition, are lawn, grenadine, chambray, muslin, organdy, and cotton prints.

    Design of sport clothes, however, is loss likely to repeat the fashions of the 19th century. The bathing dross shown is made of black poplin with red cashmere trimmings, it has a below-the-knee skirt, even longer bloomers, and a pair of black cotton stockings complete the ensemble. A short black and red checked serge cape goes with it. A white linen skirt and white handkerchief linen blouse with Mexican drawn-work insertions was a tennis costume. The sleeves are long, and the neck is high and boned.

    The two-toned tan suede hunting costume might pass muster today and so might the black double-breasted cheviot riding habit, with skirt, worn with a madrass plaid waistcoat and a tan poplin ascot tie. A high silk accompanies it.

    The exhibition was arranged by Mrs. Michelle Murphy, Supervisor of the Education Division of the Museum.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 127.
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