Another “Peek Under the Petticoat” in Monmouth County

I attended a unique event at the Monmouth County Historical Association in Freehold, New Jersey. It was called “A Peek Under the Petticoat” and it allowed a small group of historical fashion enthusiasts to watch and even assist guest curator Bernadette Rogoff in the dressing of a mannequin in an 1868 dress.

The dress belonged to Julia Norton Hartshorne, a lively woman who died tragically at the age of 30, most likely from smallpox. The mannequin is part of the museum’s current exhibition, Hartshorne: Eight Generations and ­Their Highlands Estate Called Portland. 

It was time for Julia to change her outfit, so the Historical Association held another “Peek” event. This time, attendees got a demonstration in how to properly wrap and store an antique garment and got a sneak peek at the next two dresses Julia will wear in the coming months.

At this “Peek” Julia changed into a stunning electric blue and black striped dress that is in remarkably good condition. Julia had a new wardrobe made in 1868 but fell sick soon after. It’s likely that she never got to wear the striped dress in public. After she died, her husband packed away her wardrobe in storage chests where it remained for generations. As a result, this dress still provides the stunning visual impact it would have in 1868.

The Association says it will be having at least two more “Peek” events, offering you the opportunity to see Julia dressed in springtime silk lavender or a gauzy summer eggshell gown with a floral print (see photos).

Meanwhile, you can see Julia in her electric blue glory at the Hartshorne exhibition. The museum is located at 70 Court Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information, give them a buzz at 732-462-1466.

Where to Shop for Victorian Accessories in Ocean Grove, NJ

Wondering what you should wear on the Victorian Tea Party Bus? You’re not required to dress in 19th century-inspired finery, but it’s definitely encouraged.

Consider coming to Ocean Grove early on the day of the trip. There are several shops in town that can provide you with a touch of Victorian flair. Look below to see what goodies I found right here in town.

At the April Cornell store at 70 Main Avenue, you can buy a fancy collar or cuffs that automatically “Victorianize” whatever you’re already wearing.


The Historical Society of Ocean Grove has a museum gift shop at 50 Pitman Avenue. They sell these lovely rice paper parasols.

At Gingerbread’s at 49 Main Avenue they offer a pretty variety of shawls/scarves as well as Victorian style hat pins.



Finally, The Emporium at 63 Main Avenue has a fantastic selection of fascinators right now. Here’s one in deep purple (my favorite) and one with feathers.



Getting “A Peek Under the Petticoat” from the Monmouth County Historical Association

I’m still excited about what happened this past Friday, September 30, 2016.

I was one of ten enthusiastic ladies who got “A Peek Under the Petticoat” at the museum of the Monmouth County Historical Associationin Freehold, New Jersey.

Sounds racy, doesn’t it? Well, my heart did race, because I had a rare opportunity to watch a mannequin being dressed layer-by-layer in beautifully surviving clothes from 1869. I got to do what I never get to do in places like the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, or downstairs in the Costume Institute galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or at the lovely Fashion Museum in Bath, England: I got to look at the garments close up. It interested me as both a history buff and a sewing enthusiast. I got to scrutinize the stitching, study the embroidery, and recognize the ultra-fine red-on-blue pinstripe in a dress silk that from a safe museum patron’s distance would appear to be flat navy.


Photo by Marianne Sweet

The “experiment” was in opening up the dressing of the mannequin to a small audience of ten. The announcement from the museum landed in my inbox at about 6:00 AM. By 6:20, I was registered.What was the occasion, you may wonder? Joseph Hammond, Curator of Museum Collections, called the event “an experiment”. Preparations were underway for their forthcoming exhibition, Hartshorne: Eight Generations and ­Their Highlands Estate Called Portland. Among the objects to appear in the exhibition is a mannequin representing Julia Norton Hartshorne, a lively woman who died tragically at the age of 30, most likely from smallpox. Her complete wardrobe from the time of her death has been well-preserved by her descendants, giving the Monmouth County Historical Association the ability to dress “Julia” in her own clothing, from petticoats to bonnet (the latter still bearing its tag from a Paris boutique!).

We, the lucky audience, got to witness the dressing of Julia by guest curator Bernadette Rogoff who is an expert in the care and display of antique textiles and who “loves this stuff”. Some attendees even got to assist Rogoff. She was generous with her time and know-how and answered, oh, about a billion questions with grace and enthusiasm.

Hammond chuckled when I said “You should do this every month.” Hey, who’s kidding?

Interested in the Hartshorne exhibition? A preview reception to celebrate the opening will be held on Thursday, October 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The reception is open to the public at no charge and refreshments will be served. The exhibition runs from October 7, 2016 through April 29, 2017. The museum is located at 70 Court Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information, give them a buzz at 732-462-1466.