A “Just Married!” Extra – A Key Part of the Trousseau, 1903

Posted on September 1st, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joanna, click here.

 

On October 7, 1903, Rosa Weiller of Baltimore and Sidney P. Thanhouser of Parkersburg, WV were married at Lehmann’s Hall by Rabbi Guttmacher of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  The Sun described the event in the following day’s paper:

“The bride was attended by Miss Rose Cohn and the groom by Mr. Milton Myers. The bride’s gown was of white chiffon and Duchesse lace, and her bouquet was of lillies of the valley. Miss Cohn, the maid of honor, was gowned in chiffon cloth and carried American Beauty roses. The groom and his best man and the ushers wore conventional evening dress, with boutonnieres of lillies of the valley…. A dinner and reception followed the ceremony and later in the evening the bride and groom left on an extended wedding journey.”

The newlyweds settled in Baltimore – living for some time with Rosa’s widowed father, Isaac C. Weiller, at the Marlborough Apartments on Eutaw Place, before moving to their own home in the nearby  Esplanade Apartments – and in 1909, Sidney went into business with Rosa’s brother Charles, founding Thanhouser & Weiller, manufacturers of boys’ clothing.  They had two children, including daughter Louise who in 1989 donated her parents’ album of congratulatory wedding telegrams (on display in our “Just Married!” exhibit) and, from her mother’s trousseau, a set of fine lace-trimmed muslin nightclothes.

Nightgown from the trousseau of Rosa Stein Weiller Thanhouser.  Made of fine muslin – perhaps nainsook [link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nainsook] – with flounced lace yoke; the elbow-length sleeves are adorned with exuberant lace ruffles and silk bows. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.1

Nightgown from the trousseau of Rosa Stein Weiller Thanhouser. Made of fine muslin – perhaps nainsook – with flounced lace yoke; the elbow-length sleeves are adorned with exuberant lace ruffles and silk bows. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.1

Detail of the lace flounce at the cuff of the knee-length matching drawers. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.2

Detail of the lace flounce at the cuff of the knee-length matching drawers. Gift of Louise Thanhouser Goldman. JMM 1989.135.2

At the time of Rosa’s marriage, a typical bridal trousseau included not only the wedding ensemble itself, but also a going-away outfit (for leaving the ceremony and/or starting off on the wedding trip); the linens necessary for starting her own household; and some pretty underthings. According to Emily Post (1922), the bride’s mother is responsible for buying as many of the latter as possible, for “the various undress garments which are to be worn in her room or at the breakfast table, and for the sole admiration of her husband, are of far greater importance than the dresses and hats to be worn in public.” Though Rosa’s nightclothes are a far cry from the negligees a modern bride might choose, remember that fashions change in many ways – not only for the wedding gowns themselves – and what looks matronly or old-fashioned to us today was quite stylish and sophisticated in 1903.

Rosa came from what looks like a comfortably middle-class family – her father was in the clothing business, and they lived (with at least one servant) in a prosperous neighborhood – and no doubt her mother wanted to outfit her with the very best. Unfortunately there’s no indication of whether these were bespoke pieces or, if they came from a local store, which store that might have been… but thanks to other items in our collection, we can take a look at similar offerings from Baltimore’s Joel Gutman & Co. only a few years earlier (notice how the fashionable sleeve size has changed by the time of Rosa’s gown):

From the Joel Gutman & Co. fall/winter catalogue, 1897-1898: options in “bridal sets,” consisting of nightgown, chemise or corset cover, and matching drawers. Available in cambric or nainsook, you’re your choice of a variety of lace types and qualities, some costing as much as $50 - which sounds reasonable until you realize that $50 in 1903 would be over $1,000 in today's money. Just like today, though, sizes for large or small ladies were a little harder to acquire than ‘standard’ sizes. Gift of Arthur Gutman. JMM 1989.10.4

From the Joel Gutman & Co. fall/winter catalogue, 1897-1898: options in “bridal sets,” consisting of nightgown, chemise or corset cover, and matching drawers. Available in cambric or nainsook, you’re your choice of a variety of lace types and qualities, some costing as much as $50 – which sounds reasonable until you realize that $50 in 1903 would be over $1,000 in today’s money. Just like today, though, sizes for large or small ladies were a little harder to acquire than ‘standard’ sizes. Gift of Arthur Gutman. JMM 1989.10.4

 

Curious to see what other brides were wearing in 1903? Here’s a full ensemble – including wedding gown, underclothes, shoes, fan, and nightgown (click on “additional images”) – worn by a Brooklyn bride that year, courtesy of the Met.

The Chicago Tribune detailed the “Trousseau of the June Bride” for 1903 (though without describing the nighclothes, sadly).

And here’s a 1903 description of an appropriate British trousseau (and, in the section above, of a stylish 1903 nightgown very similar to Rosa’s), quoted in C. Willet Cunnington’s fashion history classic, The History of Underclothes (1951).

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Can’t Touch This: Voices from the Basement Part 1

Posted on August 17th, 2017 by

This summer we asked our summer interns to team up and create their very own podcast episodes. Over the course of ten weeks they needed to pitch a concept, draft a script, and record and edit their podcasts. We’re going to share those podcasts here with you on the blog over the course of the next few weeks! You can see all of their podcasts by clicking on the intern podcast tag.


 

Interns Joelle and Amy posing with one of the many historic dresses they worked with this summer.

Interns Joelle and Amy posing with one of the many historic dresses they worked with this summer.

The first podcast episodes in this special series were created by collections interns Joelle Paull and Amy Swartz to focus on the care and handling of museum collections. They had so much to talk about that they elected to create three episodes – the first is focused on textiles, a subject they got first hand experience with as they assisted with the installation of our Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland exhibit. Below are some images and resources related to their podcast Can’t Touch This, episode 1.

>>Listen to the Podcast<<


 

Wedding dress made of silk with beadwork on bodice and skirt, worn by Bessie Grossman when she married Louis Paymer, Jan. 3, 1911. Gift of Zelda Paymer Salkin and Lenore Paymer Snyder. JMM 1986.109.1

Wedding dress made of silk with beadwork on bodice and skirt, worn by Bessie Grossman when she married Louis Paymer, Jan. 3, 1911. Gift of Zelda Paymer Salkin and Lenore Paymer Snyder. JMM 1986.109.1

Many hours were spent carefully steaming out wrinkles.

Many hours were spent carefully steaming out wrinkles.


Resources on how to handle textiles:

How to Handle Antique Textiles and Costumes from the Smithsoniam Museum Conservation Institute

Curatorial Care of Textile Objects from the National Park Service

Care of Historic Clothing and Textiles from the University of Georgia

Caring for Your Treasures: Textiles from the American Institute for Conservation


 

Each of these mannequins has their own name and were used for displaying textiles in the Just Married! exhibit.

Each of these mannequins has their own name and were used for displaying textiles in the Just Married! exhibit.


Why you shouldn’t use blue tissue paper to store your wedding dress!


Continue to “Can’t Touch This” part 2!

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Padding and Stuffing Galore: What It Really Takes to Exhibit Textiles

Posted on June 19th, 2017 by

Blog post by Amy Swartz, Collections Intern. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

This past week was spent helping Joanna Church, the Collections Manager, set up the newest exhibit at the museum: Just Married: Wedding Stories From Jewish Maryland. Some of the main components of the exhibit are textiles such as dresses and tuxedos. I spent the majority of my week focusing on these artifacts. I had no previous experience of working with textiles in any of my past internships so I was very excited to have the chance to learn about caring and displaying these types of artifacts in an exhibit. I also always had an interest in historical fashion and whenever I was able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I always bee-lined it straight to the textile wing. And anyways, who doesn’t love a pretty dress?

Hard at work steaming the wrinkles out of a dress.

Hard at work steaming the wrinkles out of a dress.

Well the answer to that question was to be tested this week as I learned how much more work it goes into displaying textiles and dresses than simply putting it on a manikin. I began the week with loads and loads of steaming. Many of the dresses were either from the JMM collection or from donors, many of whom kept the dresses in boxes for years on end. So needless to say, there were some intense wrinkles. About four dresses were in desperate need of steaming so armed with a steamer and helped by the education interns: Sara and Erin, I was able to steam all of the dresses in a day. But steaming was only the beginning.

One of the dresses in the exhibit that required very careful handling and needed padding for shape.

One of the dresses in the exhibit that required very careful handling and needed padding for shape.

The next step consisted of moving the manikins and dresses through the building and into the exhibit, which is easier said than done when contesting with a hoop skirt. Once the manikins were in place, we had to make them look more real for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would look silly if a dress was just hanging off a manikin, who if measured would probably be a 00 in dress size and has unrealistic proportions. Secondly, fabrics need support in order to keep their shape and to support larger pieces of fabric, such as tulle skirts, there needs to be some form of structure. Not supporting the textiles properly could lead to further damage.

The dress with the largest skirt, which required a lot of steaming and paper tissue to enhance the petticoat underneath.

The dress with the largest skirt, which required a lot of steaming and paper tissue to enhance the petticoat underneath.

So the question became, how to support these dresses, because real women, with rather exact measurements, had worn them in the past. We, in the Collections department, turned to padding, tulle, and even paper tissue. Many of the manikins needed busts and butts so we started by putting bras or slips on the manikins and then stuffing the bra area if the dress needed it. We added paper tissues to petticoats in order to make them more full. One of the harder tasks was creating butts for the manikins, which went by trial and error. I began by folding padding up into a square and then pinning it to the manikin at the right height. But more often than not, I needed to add one or two more pieces of padding in order to make them seem more realistic. The last step was to create arms for the dresses, using stockings and padding. This could also be tricky as it was much harder to put dresses on manikins with arms, however with a few hands, it was certainly doable.

Last week provided me with real insight into how a textile exhibit is made and how much careful work must be put into each dress. It definitely makes me wonder if other museums have different techniques or resources based on their size and funding. Although the exhibit did require a bit of grunt-work and careful handling, the beauty of the dresses and the addition they make to the exhibit was invaluable and I cannot wait to learn more about handling different types of artifacts this summer.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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