Nichols House Museum Tour Celebrates 1920s Fashion

The Nichols House Museum invites guests to ring in the 2020s by stepping back in time 100 years with an after-hours tour that explores its collection of 1920s women’s fashion garments and clothing accessories.

“Nichols after Dark: 1920s Fashion,” which comes to the museum at 55 Mount Vernon St. tonight and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, Jan. 30 and 31, from 6 to 8 p.m., promises to be an event that will appeal to the fashion- and history-lovers alike, with gin cocktails to follow.

“The 1920s is always associated with glamour, so there’s really no way of getting away from that,” said Elizabeth Weisblatt, dress and textile historian for the Nichols House Museum, as well as the National Society of the Colonial Dames, which is loaning several costume items to the exhibit. “This was really the first time in history when women got out into the workforce and needed a wardrobe for that…. and also when it was becoming readily available to go to department stores, but that doesn’t diminish from having clothes made at home sort of as a balance.”

The exhibit will showcase, among other items, a 1923 evening gown designed by Callot Soeurs – one of the era’s leading fashion-design houses.

“It’s Egyptian-inspired because it was designed shortly after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb,” said Weisblatt, who will serve as the tour guide for the exhibit. “Archeological discoveries and other issues of a social nature begin showing up in fashion around this time.”

Also on display will be a rare offering from Weisblatt’s own personal collection – a 1924 hat manufactured by Lane Bryant, a longstanding, national chain that specializes in clothing for “plus-sized” women.

And the amount of pride and care women of this era took in their wardrobes should be readily apparent upon viewing the exhibit.

“There was more time put into clothing then, whether it was for a secretary or someone going out to a formal ball,” Weisblatt said. “The level of care and quality and almost devotion you’d see show how women then were constantly repairing things; it wasn’t just ‘throw-out’ fashion.

 “There are mending marks in the stockings, which really shows the life of garment, as well as the care put into it by the person who wore it and how much it mattered to them,” Weisblatt added.

Laura Cunningham, the Nichols House Museum’s curator of collections and education, said this exhibit highlights not only evening wear and high style, but also everyday clothing worn by working women of the era.

“Dress says so much about cultural values and how we see ourselves in the world,” Cunningham said. “This [exhibit] is a way for us to celebrate the new decade by thinking about what people wore and how they went about their daily lives.

“It’s one of the most robust program on fashion history we’ve offered to date and one that I’m personally very excited about,” Cunningham added. “And it’s also just another way to engage audiences, which is always a main priority for the Nichols House Museum.” Tickets are $35 general admission and $25 for Nichols House Museum members

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