2012-07-04 / Attractions

Gala Opening for Fashion Exhibition

By Catherine Garnsey

FIT Students Katie Sabo and Kathryn Squitieri. Photo / Catherine GarnseyFIT Students Katie Sabo and Kathryn Squitieri. Photo / Catherine GarnseyThe Putnam History Museum hosted the grand opening of its latest exhibit, Summer Afternoon - Fashion and Leisure in the Hudson Highlands, 1850-1950, late Saturday afternoon at its location on Chestnut Street in Cold Spring.

It was also a celebration of the accomplishments of Dr. Lourdes Font of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) of New York, and her team of colleagues and students, who spent five years on the painstaking project.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Trudie Grace, curator of the museum, said, “As a curator, I am responsible for the authentication and staging of historic items like vases, furniture and paintings, but to take on an exhibition in fashion, in my opinion, is a much greater feat. Dr. Font, our guest curator, had to oversee the entire process of preparing these delicate articles of clothing for this event. From the cataloging and research on the origins of these items, to the washing and restoring and presentation, this has been an enormous undertaking and a real gift to our museum.”

Champagne flowed as some sixty museum members and others from the public strolled through the two bright galleries, surveying the vintage clothes that had been meticulously displayed on extraordinarily tiny mannequins. “All of the dress forms were built from the precise measurements of each garment,” explained Kathryn Squitieri, a Masters student from FIT, who worked on the presentation of the precious heirlooms.

Standing in front of a delightful cotton embroidery wedding dress from 1908, Font explained that it had been worn by Marguerite Walker Rogers, who had a summer house in Garrison back in the day. “At first we thought that it was simply a lawn dress from that era, but noticing that it had a train, further research was needed. We checked the archives of the PCN&R and sure enough, there was an announcement of Marguerite’s wedding and all the details of the reception that was held on the grounds of their estate.”

Font continued: “The items for this collection are gifts from area residents who had preserved their grandmothers’ or great-grandmothers’ clothing long enough for them to be of historic importance. Many turn-of-the-century aristocrats of New York City had summer homes up here in the country. Later on, when their children wanted to pack away the family heirlooms, they would bring them up to the second residence and store the clothing in the attics. We are very fortunate to have these real-life artifacts that connect us to days gone by.”

The exhibit was clearly well received. “I have a photo of my grandmother in a dress like this,” one visitor remarked, pointing to a little girl’s white cotton eyelet and lace dress circa 1900. “It makes her memory come alive to be here tonight. I can just imagine her standing there, wearing that dress.”

The Summer Afternoon - Fashion and Leisure in the Hudson Highlands, 1850- 1950 exhibit runs through December 15. The Putnam History Museum hours are: Wednesday to Sunday, 11 to 5. Please call 845-265-4010 for more information.

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