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.