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Mary Adams, 1754, YCBA

Meet Mary Adams, painted in 1754. She looks to be a certain age, does she not? But she’s still rocking some style. I like black, and wore black clothes almost exclusively for years from high school on, despite the relentless taunts of  feral sixth-grade boys. (My nickname was Boots. Costuming and living history is but another episode of dressing funny…)

But I digress.

Mary was a happy find this morning, because I knew I’d seen this little detail somewhere…and here it is:

Detail, Mary Adams, 1754,B1981.25.513, YCBA

Detail, Mary Adams, 1754,B1981.25.513, YCBA

Did you catch that? It looks remarkably like Mary has laced her gown over her kerchief, and not over a stomacher. I’m doing a little dance, thankyouverymuch, because that is how I roll. Or lace, as the case may be. Look, too, at the top of the lacing: her gown is pulling. Yes. Imperfections, how I adore thee.

Snark aside, it’s a kind of relief. Looking at Copley and Feke and all their sleek silken women is like flipping through Vogue in the doctor’s office waiting room: after a while, I start to feel woefully inadequate in all ways. From the Richard III gown’s wiggly seams to my inability to pin my dresses straight, and heck, the generally asymmetrical rumpled-ness of my presentations… you can get to feeling very low, as Thompson and Thomson observe in Prisoners of the Sun.



So among the things  I note in the painting is the depth of the pull at the top of the gown.  Hmm. I feel better about how my flesh and gown relate in the armpit area now.

But if the pull line starts over beyond the robings, that helps a costumer figure out where to put the lace holes and how to arrange the gown. I also like the asymmetry of blue lace zig-zagging down the kerchief. When I work that out on Richard III, and alter my red calico gown, I’ll use Mary’s portrait as a reference.

Finally, and perhaps best, of all, Mary can read. And she need spectacles. That wonderful pair in her hand look like they are cousins of this pair. All in all, a happy find this morning.