One of the last dresses in the exhibit is a knee-length, black beaded dress worn by Rebecca Rim of Andover to her daughter’s engagement party in the 1920s. The choice of dress would have been unthinkable 20 years before Rim donned it, during a time when black was considered the color of mourning and legs were best left unseen.
“Maybe during the party Rim looked back to when she was her daughter’s age at the height of the Edwardian era with its heavily corseted figures and complex rules about wearing the appropriate outfit for the time of day and the event.
“And, as for having a hemline at the knee! In Edwardian times, there was only a certain kind of woman who showed her legs in public. But the advent of World War I and the entry of so many women into the workforce forced fashion to adapt and become much less restrictive. Corsetry was eased and hemlines rose,” the exhibit notes say.
By 1926, hemlines had reached the knee and a woman’s outfit weighed about one-10th of its Victorian equivalent. The display culminates with dresses reflecting the freedoms enjoyed by women in the 1920s.
“These are just some of the many stories that will be told in the exhibit,” Midura said.
“They are not the first thing you think of when looking at the dress; rather, they are underneath, slightly hidden ... stories that are `Behind the Seams.’”
If You Go
What: “Behind the Seams, Stories of Clothing, 1790 to 1920,” a self-guided exhibit of Andover fashion through the years
When: Opening Sunday, July 28, with reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Runs through April 2014.
Where: Andover Historical Society, 97 Main St., Andover
How: Free admission. Regular exhibit hours Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 978-475-2236 or visit www.andoverhistorical.org.