The pink child’s dress shown above was among a larger selection of children’s clothing brought out of storage by Assistant Curator Jennifer Swope, who recently hosted a study visit by Carey Hanson, a costume designer hailing from Oxford, Mississippi. The dress, in pristine condition, is an exquisite example of children’s fashion from the first quarter of the 19th century. I learned with great interest that during this time, dresses were worn by both male and female children. Bifurcated garments such as breeches were reserved for men and older boys; whereas female children and younger boys were dressed in skirted garments, blurring distinctions between gender.
Hanson, who heads the Design and Production program at University of Mississippi, came to the MFA to view a selection of 18th and 19th century children’s clothing over a period of three days—her first stop as part of a whirlwind tour of several New England-based collections. Hanson’s goal is to construct forms with faithful attention to historic accuracy. Her first-hand experience as a visiting researcher at the MFA is emblematic of how the department of Textile and Fashion Arts puts collections into action:
Being able to study such lovely historic garments in the collection was truly inspiring for my work as a costume designer and as a costume history professor. In the busy world of designing and producing costumes for theatrical events it is such an extraordinary experience to have the opportunity to examine beautifully crafted period clothing that has been so wonderfully conserved.”
Object a Week is a revolving showcase of MFA textile collections. A featured object may be indicative of the author’s study focus at a given moment and/or related to topics of research, activity, or recent acquisitions in the Museum’s Textile and Fashion Arts department. For more in-depth explorations of the collection, see A Closer Look.