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Fashions Worn by Wisconsin Women of Style


A collage of dresses worn by prominent Wisconsin women from 1858 (left), 1890 (center) and 1927 (right)

The phrase "Wisconsin fashion" may evoke images of cold-weather parkas and Stormy Kromer caps rather than the stylish garments created by haute couture designers in Paris and New York. Yet, beginning in the late 19th century, there have been Wisconsin women who have had the means and interest to wear extraordinarily expensive and fashionable clothes. The Wisconsin Historical Museum's Curator of Costume and Textiles Leslie Bellais will highlight examples from the Society's collections in an upcoming episode of Wisconsin Public Television's "University Place" program with Norman Gilliland.

From Antebellum Wisconsin to the Flapper Era

Often the show, whose purpose is to bring research and knowledge to the people of Wisconsin, airs lectures by university professors, but in this segment, called "Wisconsin Women of Style," Gilliland chose to have a conversation with Bellais. They discuss fashion trends and their societal influences from the 1850s, the age of the crinoline, to the 1920s, the flapper era, as they played out in Wisconsin. She illustrates her discussion with dresses worn by prominent Wisconsin women such as Mrs. Lucius Fairchild, Mrs. Timothy A. Chapman, Mrs. Charles Allis and Meta Berger, and proves that Wisconsin women have a long history of being fashion conscious.

Watch the Premiere

"Wisconsin Women of Style" premieres Monday, August 5, at 4:20 pm and will be repeated several times over the following week. Afterward it can be found at the 'University Place' website. For a preview of the University Place episode, see the article, 'Wisconsin Women of Style,' in the spring 2013 issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History.

:: Posted June 24, 2013

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