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Fashions, 1841. Fashion Plate Collection, Ella Strong Denison Library, Claremont College

Fashions, 1841. Fashion Plate Collection, Ella Strong Denison Library, Claremont College

Perhaps the Young Mr is correct: I may be crazy.

I have agreed to, at the very least, explore a project and grant funding to recreate an April 17 1841 Suffrage Parade for my workplace. We still have to decide to what lengths we’ll go, but the idea is so appealing that I want to give it a shot. (Orator positions opening soon?)

Public promenade dress, 1842. Claremont College

Public promenade dress, 1842. Fashion Plate Collection, Ella Strong Denison Library, Claremont College

Why is this crazy? Another year-specific event, with the event part to organize, plus wardrobe for at least some people? Pure madness, utter delight. Blame it on the Godey’s Lady’s Magazine paper dolls I bought at the Chicago Historical Society all those years ago. It could even mean another corset, and we all know how much I love making corsets. But I was thinking about how at my age in 1841 I’d be accustomed to an earlier style…but the key, as always, is looking. And looking tells me I need more of a waist than I can perhaps achieve with the stays I have in hand.

To my Pinterest board (thanks for so many wonderful leads, Cassidy) mix of extant garments and accessories, I’ve been pinning from fashion plate collections, including the well-cataloged collection at Claremont College Library.

Fashion plates are one of the sources you have to be careful with. Like Vogue, in fact exactly like Vogue, these are high-style images that are as mannered in their rendering as fashion images are today. Waists will be slimmer and skirts rounder, but the silhouette and shapes will be recognizable in extant garments, painted portraits, and thankfully, photography.

Mrs. Thomas Easterly. Daguerreotype by Thomas M. Easterly. Missouri Historical Society, PHO:17434

Mrs. Thomas Easterly. Daguerreotype by Thomas M. Easterly. Missouri Historical Society, PHO:17434

The year of the Suffrage March, 1841, is early for photography but not impossible (thank you, M. Daguerre). It’s not the right state, but there is a fantastic collection of images in Missouri. These portraits give a good sense of what people were actually wearing, and what shape their bodies took inside their stays and corsets. (Hot tip: don’t clear daguerreotypes with Scotch-brite pads.)

This is, really, a mad scheme that goes far beyond dress. But a banner painted with an ox and the slogan “I die for Liberty” carried by butchers? A wagonload of disenfranchised Revolutionary War veterans? Enlisting students (not in costume) to follow along behind costumed interpreters marching the known route of the 1841 parade? It’s too tempting not to try.

Bonus: Patterns and plaid!