Andover Historical Society is being transformed into a Main Street boutique from yesteryear with the help of 25 accessorized mannequins that offer a glimpse at fashionable moments from the past.
“Behind the Seams, Stories of Clothing, 1790 to 1920” uses costumes, accessories, quilts and samplers drawn from the society’s extensive costume and textile collection to tell tales from 130 years of clothing history in Andover.
The exhibit — arranged throughout the society’s Amos Blanchard House on Main Street — will be officially unveiled on Sunday with an opening reception. Funded in part by a 2013 Partnership Grant from Essex National Heritage Commission, the show runs through April 2014.
More than 30 volunteers have been involved in the planning and installation of the exhibition, contributing more than 1,500 volunteer hours to bringing the display to fruition, Carrie Midura of the society said. An accompanying catalog will be published in September and exhibit-related programs will take place each month through next April.
Midura said the exhibit was prompted by visitors’ curiosity of the dresses and other apparel on display in the museum. She said one of their first questions often is, “Who wore it and what event did they go to?”
Unfortunately, however, those answers often escape local historians.
“The dresses in the society’s collection have been lovingly cared for over the years, but for many dresses, the story of who wore it and why has been lost,” Midura said.
Still, while the original wearer of the outfits may not be known, Midura said there are still many stories the dresses can tell.
Dig deeper and one learns that the dresses speak of times when fabric was a valuable resource, expensive to buy and used and reused wisely, the society explains.
The clothing tells tales of Victorian invention, both the sensible and the ridiculous. The pieces speak to the rigid social rules of Edwardian times and later the new economic and social freedom enjoyed by women after World War I.