Maine Historical Society



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Newest Museum Exhibit Explores 200 Years of "Dressing Up" in Maine

June 20, 2011

Newest Museum Exhibit Explores 200 Years of

(Portland, ME) Maine Historical Society’s latest exhibit, opening to the public Friday, June 24, is a fascinating look at how Mainers have “dressed up” for a variety of occasions over two hundred years. Drawing from MHS’s extensive collections, Dressing Up, Fitting In, Standing Out: Adornment & Identity in Maine, 1750-1950 features a broad selection of adornments from the MHS collection, many never before displayed, including hats, jewelry, shoes, hair combs, walking sticks, and several complete costumes. Objects are accompanied and illuminated by photographs, paintings, journal entries, and more.

According to exhibit curator Candace Kanes, Dressing Up explores the choices we make to look our best. “Every hat or shoe, buckle or brooch tells a story of who we are, who we want to be, and how we want others to see us. And every social occasion makes its own demands, whether we are trying to fit in for a ceremony, or stand out for a special portrait.”

Dressing Up explores such moments and occasions from the 18th century to the 20th centuries, sharing the stories of firemen and brides, immigrants and Masons, children and generals, and many others.

“This is wonderful stuff, and many of the items in the exhibit have never been displayed before,” says Executive Director Richard D’Abate. “One of my favorites, and a signature piece of the exhibit, is a brooch given by King Don Juan of Spain to Henry Dearborn in the 1820s. Dearborn lived in Gardiner and was Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of War. The brooch includes a miniature portrait of the King surrounded by diamonds. It’s both odd and spectacular, and was given to Dearborn as a token of the King’s appreciation after the U.S. protected his government.”

Many items in the exhibit capture more modest moments, closer to home. In personal diaries, John Martin of Bangor, Persis Sibley Andrews of Paris, and others share their own observations about the fashion demands of their time and place, and their own awareness (and anxieties) about where they fit. Andrews, newly married and living in Dixfield in 1844, wrote in her diary, "My dress was far behind the other ladies in fashion … and this I am not used to."

Exhibit-related programming during the coming year will include lectures, in-depth school programs, and more.

Exhibit information:

Dressing Up, Fitting In, Standing Out: Adornment & Identity in Maine, 1750-1950
Friday, June 24, 2011-May 27, 2012

For more information:

Maine Historical Society
489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101

The Maine Historical Society promotes the understanding and enjoyment of Maine history.