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Old Fashion Fun

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The “Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War” exhibit includes garments worn on both the home front and front lines. Images courtesy of The Charleston Museum

January 5, 2011

Old Fashion Fun
This weekend, try on Civil War-era styles at The Charleston Museum

Written by Anna Evans

With no shortage of talented designers, high-end boutiques, and stylish locals, the Holy City, circa 2011, is undoubtedly devoted to the latest fashions. But on January 8, some old styles will instead step into the limelight as The Charleston Museum holds a “try-on” event in conjunction with their “Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War” exhibition.

The inaugural exhibit of the museum’s new Historic Textiles Gallery opened in October, helping our city commemorate the Civil War’s sesquicentennial by focusing on the hardships faced not only by soldiers but also by civilians on the home front. “Clothing and other textiles are so personal that they really bring history alive in a way that items used in battle don’t,” says curator of textiles Jan Hiester. “Most pieces in our collection have a South Carolina or Lowcountry connection. We know who wore them or at least what family they came from.”

The originals on display tell fascinating stories, but until you’ve tried to walk amidst a hoopskirt’s wide footprint or felt the wooly confines of a uniform coat, it’s difficult to truly understand the era. So from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, adults and children alike can do just that. Using original patterns and a lot of research, the Carolina Ladies Aid Society has created a wardrobe of reproduction items, including undergarments—“you’ve got to have a corset to give a dress the proper silhouette,” says Hiester—and accessories such as fans, top hats, and bonnets.

To record your new look for posterity (or Facebook), bring a camera and step into the “studio” set up to resemble those in which cartes de visite were once taken. “In this early form of photography, which was all the rage in the 1860s, the person was usually standing next to a chair or other furnishing,” explains Hiester. “We have some great examples on exhibit, including some of the day’s big celebs—Sherman, Lee, and Pickens.”

Tour “Threads of War,” play dress up, and snap old-fashioned photos, all for the price of regular admission? We’re betting style hounds, history buffs, families, and everyone in between will find beauty in that.

Civil War Fashion Try-on: Saturday, January 8, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting St. $10; $5 ages three to 12; free for member/child under three. (843) 722-2996,

For details on “Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War,” click here.

To find more events happening around town this weekend, click here.