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October 12, 2010

Costume Design Center Staff Showcases 18th-century Sewing Techniques During Annual Open House

Colonial Williamsburg’s Costume Design Center’s second annual open house will be held 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22 at its location on 250 First St., Williamsburg.

Guests have the opportunity to tour the facility, view reproduction garments and see demonstrations of techniques for sewing 18th-century period attire and accessories.

The Costume Design Center, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, dresses interpretive staff for Historic Area programming, Electronic Field Trips, Historic Area stores and products staff, tavern character interpreters and entertainers, and employees at the Raleigh Tavern Bakery.

The design center also outfits celebrities who perform in Colonial Williamsburg’s Guest Artist program. In May, the Costume Design Center was tasked with developing a gown for Guest Artist Mamie Gummer, who portrayed Lady Dunmore in the scene, “Lady Dunmore Prepares for the Ball.” The dress featured a cutaway jacket and petticoat. The fabric was reproduced from hand-painted silk fabric in Colonial Williamsburg’s collections. The Costume Design Center constructed the items which accessorize or complete her ensemble and machine embroidered the handkerchief Gummer wore at her neck.

The Costume Design Center outfitted Colonial Williamsburg’s second Guest Artist, Jesse Williams, who appeared in the scene, What Holds the Future?, on Saturday, Sept. 25. The scene centered on the personal stories of several slaves of the royal governor — their worries, their efforts to win freedom, the fates of their children — as they are about to be sold as property to the highest bidder.

The 18th-century clothing pieces the Costume Design Center creates for Colonial Williamsburg’s staff are used as interpretive tools themselves. Costumes add to the colonial ambiance and help delineate class and occupation. They also help connect guests to the greater story of Colonial Williamsburg.

From the six initial costumes and one seamstress in 1934, the staff includes tailors, cutter-fitters, craftspeople, costume maintenance technicians, inventory control clerks and a designer. In 2008, the center designed and produced 2,454 items of clothing and accessories for Colonial Williamsburg interpreters.

No ticket is required.

For more information, call (757) 229-2141 or 1-800-HISTORY.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121