Closure….It Can Be Complicated…

Tomorrow summer will officially begin and with it commences one of the easiest fashion seasons of the year.  In summer we need to do little more to ready ourselves for the day than hop out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and shorts, or even a jersey dress, a quick pair of sandals and off we go.  But did you ever stop to think that getting dressed maybe wasn’t always so easy?  Let me show you what I mean…

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Dress. 1805-1810. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Terry. 1959.11.2

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Dress. 1805-1810. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Terry. 1959.11.2

Now lets forget for a moment that these women were wearing chemises, corsets, corset covers, and multiple petticoats and just focus on what they had to go through when it was time to put on their outer dress that everyone would actually see.

The first dress is from between 1805 and 1810.  These ladies had it easy.  This dress closes with a tie at the neckline and a tie at the waist.

The 1830s got a bit more complicated, but not by much, now it was hooks and eyes all up the back.  This particular dress has nine hooks to be precise. The dressmaker was smart, however, and set the hooks about an inch from the edge so the dress doesn’t gap.

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Dress. About 1836-1840. Gift of Annetta Eddy Brigham. 2001.49.9

The mid-1800s, from the 1850s until the 1890s, saw a similarly simple closer, only this time it was usually hooks or buttons up the center front.  You can see that illustrated in the dress below.

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Dress. About 1860. Gift of Miss Elizabeth Yale Hall. 1950.17.0

But after 1890 things got a bit more complicated.  Apparently no one wanted anyone to know how they got into or out of their garments.  Snaps, hooks, and buttons were all concealed by seams, lace, and other embellishments.  Take, for instance, one of my favorite dresses in the collection.  It is beautifully fitted, and the stripes are gorgeous.

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Dress. About 1897. Bequest of George Dudley Seymour. 1945.1.1115

But how did she ever get into it?

This is how…

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Just a few hooks and snaps.  No problem.  Right?

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Dress. About 1917. Gift of Helena G. Waterfall. 1958.41.3

These crazy closures lasted into the 1920s until side snap closures took over in popularity.  However, evening clothing continued to be complicated.  This pink evening dress from 1917 has eighteen snaps and three hook and eye closures.  Yet, it looks so simple…until you really see it.

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Now, when you wake up and get dressed tomorrow morning, just remember how good you have it and how much more complicated closure can be!

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About Karen

Karen DePauw is a Research and Collections Associate at The Connecticut Historical Society. Along with aiding patrons who visit the museum in their research efforts, Karen works behind the scenes with the costume and textile collection. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, double minoring in Theatre and Theology, from Quincy University. Karen obtained her Master of Science degree at the University of Rhode Island in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design, with a specialization in Historic Costumes and Textiles.

3 thoughts on “Closure….It Can Be Complicated…

  1. Pingback: Innovation and Re-birth | inside the CHS

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