2014-04-04 / Front Page

Exhibit brings Port fashion to forefront

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — The Kennebunkport Historical Society will host its first clothing exhibit titled, “Kennebunkport Fashion 1825 — 1900” Thursday, April 10 at the Pasco Center.

The exhibit will include 15 outfits that reflect activities common in 19th-century Kennebunkport, including wedding and funeral attire.

“This is a great exhibit,” said Kirsten Camp, business manager at the historical society. “All the clothing was donated from families who lived here in town and it really shows a history we don’t always necessarily see.”

Former society president Sandy Severance, who has been involved with the society since 1982, and Lissane James, who has been a volunteer for 10 years, have been cataloguing and caring for the donated clothing.

“It is in very good condition,” Camp said.

The historical society has received hundreds of donations from 29 families since 1957.


Part of the Kennebunkport Historical Society’s exhibition entitled, “Kennebunkport Clothing 1825—1900” the peach dress is an evening gown from 1890 and the white lace on blue silk, a formal dress from 1900. Both pieces were worn by different Kennebunkport residents and later donated to the historical society in the late 1970s. The exhibit will open to the public from April 11 to June 15. 
(Courtesy photos) Part of the Kennebunkport Historical Society’s exhibition entitled, “Kennebunkport Clothing 1825—1900” the peach dress is an evening gown from 1890 and the white lace on blue silk, a formal dress from 1900. Both pieces were worn by different Kennebunkport residents and later donated to the historical society in the late 1970s. The exhibit will open to the public from April 11 to June 15. (Courtesy photos) Camp began as a docent at the historical society. “My tours were always really interested in the clothing, and I couldn’t necessarily give them all of the information they wanted,” Camp said.

The idea of a clothing exhibit has been in the works for some time.

Severance and James have been preparing the exhibit since January.

Student interns from The New School have also been assisting with exhibit preparation three times a week since the beginning of the year.

“They’ve been working with me on setting up the work aspects of this,” Camp said. The idea came about when one of the history teachers at the school took ill.

The historical society offered to let the students assist with the exhibit as a hands-on history class.

“It gets the kids involved, it gets them in here, asking questions,” Camp said. “They were so interested in this exhibit we asked the photography class to come in and photograph all of the clothing in a unique and contemporary way.” Ten of the selected photos will be on display at the exhibit.

The historical society’s board will pick a winner at the end of opening night and award the chosen student $500 to be put toward his or her education. The people’s choice photographer will receive $250.

Students also helped to set up the backdrop of the exhibit, located in the back of the Pasco Center: a 16-by-17- foot painted canvas that was used by the “Buckfield Leather and Lather” touring Vaudeville show in the early 20th century.

“It was used until 1930,” Severance said.

The four-part backdrop was donated to the historical society from Atlantic Hall in Cape Porpoise.

Each of the 15 pieces of clothing will be displayed on mannequins, Severance said, which posed a slight problem, as most of the clothes are petite compared with today’s full-sized mannequins.

“Most of our costumes are for much smaller women,” Severance said, “so a few of our pieces are dressed in (makeshift) mannequins that are stuffed.”

“A number of things we’re showing are evening dresses. We have an 1824 dress and every stitch is handmade. It’s a gorgeous dress and it’s in remarkable condition,” Severance said.

Many of the wedding dresses that will be displayed, Severance said, are not white. “Until the First World War American women wore brightly-colored or plaid dresses. It was only after World War I, when men brought back English war brides that the tradition changed.”

Before World War I, wedding dresses “had to be something that could stand up to the elements that people could wear around town,” Severance said.

The exhibit will be open to the public April 11 to June 15 at the Pasco Center Exhibit Hall at 125 North St. in Kennebunkport.

The opening reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, April 10. The exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information visit www.kporthistory.org.

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