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April 18, 2003

Colonial Williamsburg's Wallace Museum Devotes May Programming to Study of 18th-Century Clothing

Clothes made the man and the woman in the 18th century and Williamsburg was no exception. During May, lectures and programs at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum will examine what clothing said about men and women of every station in the colonial capital of Virginia. All lectures will be held in the Hennage Auditorium and are included in museum admission.

  • Tuesdays, (May 6 and May 20), 4 p.m. From Head to Toe. Meet a lady preparing to attend a ball who needs the assistance of a tradeswoman to dress her--literally “from head to toe”--from shift (undergarment) to fancy dress, hat and shoes. 30 minutes.

    Stitching Culture (May 13 and 27), 4 p.m. This program brings to life an 18th-century painting, "The Old Plantation." The lives of slaves and the clothing they wore are explored in this program, which complements the museum’s “The Language of Clothing” exhibition. 45 minutes.

  • Tuesdays, (May 6, 13, 20 and 27), and Thursdays, (May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29), 2:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, (May 7, 14, 21 and 28), and Fridays, (May 2, 9, 16 and 30), 3 p.m., Treasured Textiles: The Cora Ginsburg Collection. This interview with the late Cora Ginsburg, recorded in 1989 during a special exhibition of her costume collection, provides insights into her collecting passion. Several pieces from her collection are on display in “The Language of Clothing.” 30 minutes.

  • Thursdays, May Lecture Series, 4 p.m.
    May 1–From Rags to Riches. Linda Baumgarten, curator of textiles and costumes, discusses the philosophy and origins of the Colonial Williamsburg costume collection. These clothes originally were worn, cleaned, altered and handed down to the next generation. Even everyday clothing, which often became “rags” after the first owner’s use, now holds great interest for scholars of material culture. Baumgarten also will sign copies of her latest book, “What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America,” which is available in the museum shop.

    May 8–Textiles for Colonial Clothing. Sally Queen, owner of Sally Queen & Associates, specialists in historic fashions, explores the similarities and differences between original textiles and current reproductions. Queen also will sign copies of her book, “Textiles for Colonial Clothing,” which is available in the museum shop.

    May 15–Life's Clothing to Theater Costuming. Trish Wesp, associate professor of theater at the College of William and Mary, takes a closer look at how original garments and period clothing collections are used by students and researchers, including their usage for theater costume design.

    May 22–Mounting the ‘Language of Clothing’ Exhibition. Loreen Finkelstein, conservator of textiles, and Linda Baumgarten, curator of textiles and costumes, take you behind the scenes and reveal how the objects in “The Language of Clothing” were prepared for exhibit.

    May 29–An Expatriate Virginian at Empress Catherine's Court: Lewis Littlepage. Colleen Callahan, curator of costumes and textiles at the Valentine Richmond History Center, Richmond, Va., discusses the life of Lewis Littlepage (1762-1802), a young Virginia diplomat, opportunist, soldier, and most probably a spy. Callahan examines Littlepage's fascinating life and the elegant clothing he wore as he pursued various European endeavors, such as negotiating a treaty between Poland and Russia at the court of Empress Catherine the Great.

  • Saturday (May 3)-Yankees in the Streets: Williamsburg During the Civil War, 2 p.m. Carson Hudson, author of “Civil War Williamsburg,” discusses how the Civil War affected the city of Williamsburg, and the women and children left behind. On May 5, 1862, the Battle of Williamsburg was fought just outside of the old colonial capital. The next day, Union troops entered the city. Residents of Williamsburg, who had supported the Confederacy, were forced to endure the indignities of life under military occupation. 1 hour.

    What They Wore: Fashions from the Civil War, 4 p.m. Civilians on the home front always tried to look their best. Come see what Williamsburg residents wore in this 1860s fashion show. Enjoy a look at men’s and women’s clothing while learning about the oddities and conveniences of everyday garments, accessories and grooming customs. 1 hour. Reservations are required.

  • Sunday (May 4)-The First Lady’s Wardrobe, 3:30 p.m. Martha Washington relives important events from her life as she looks back at various fashions she wore over the years. 1 hour. Reservations are required.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s award-winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation’s exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. The museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For program information, call (757) 220-7724.

    Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg’s mission is “that the future may learn from the past.” Colonial Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information, visit Colonial Williamsburg’s web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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