As of Saturday, March 14 the John Brown House Museum, Museum of Work & Culture, Aldrich House, and Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center will be temporarily closed until further notice. All programs and events have been moved to virtual formats, postponed, or canceled. Please see our events calendar for updates. Thank you for your understanding.

Undressing History: Women’s Clothes & Unmentionables from the 19th Century

What: Undressing History: Women’s Clothes & Unmentionables From the 19th Century”

When: Tuesday, March 6, 6pm (Providence); Thursday, May 3, 5:30pm (Newport)

Where: Aldrich House, 110 Benevolent St., Providence (March 6); Newport Historical Society Resource Center, 82 Touro St., Newport (May 3)

Admission: Free on March 6 in Providence (RSVP here); $5 ($1 for NHS members, along with active duty military) on May 3 in Newport (RSVP here)

The Newport Historical Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society will partner for their first joint “History Space” event since 2015 when they present Undressing History: Women’s Clothes & Unmentionables From the 19th Century.

During this program, which will be offered in Providence on March 6 and again in Newport on May 3, historical costumer Carrie Midura will share some of the secrets (and stuffing) hidden beneath the leg-o-mutton sleeves and shelf-like bustle gowns of the 19th century. 

Using a combination of meticulously created period reproductions and original garments from her private collection, Midura will walk visitors through the process of getting dressed during very different decades of the 1800s.

This interactive presentation features the undergarments that supported and shaped the fashionable female form when styles and silhouettes were changing as quickly as the New England weather. The program closes with the opportunity to touch and examine these unmentionables that were once commonly found in every lady’s wardrobe. 

“As a costume historian and modern dressmaker, I always look forward to helping people connect to the past through clothing. Throughout history, people have woken each day and chosen clothing to wear as they go about their business – something each of us still does today. Recognizing the similarities and differences between today’s clothing and costumes of the past is an engaging way to participate in a history lesson,” Midura said, adding:

“Clothing is fun! This program encourages people to laugh at some of the absurd fashion trends of the past while recognizing the sense of fun and frivolity that can be found in many eras of fashion. There will also be time for hands-on exploration and perhaps trying on a bustle or two.”

Midura has been sewing professionally and as hobby for more than 25 years, and has taught sewing classes throughout New England. She has been researching and reproducing historic costume since 1992, with a primary focus on 18th- and early 19th-century methods and styles since 1999. Her clients have included Revolutionary War reenactors, staff and volunteers at the Concord Museum, the historic Massachusetts estate Gore Place, and Adams National Historical Park. Midura places a great deal of importance on period construction techniques and close attention to detail. Today, she is the Wardrobe Supervisor for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where she is passionate about sewing clothing to help costumed interpreters tell the important story of the 1773 event while teaching others to do the same.

The Rhode Island Historical Society and Newport Historical Society will also partner for What Cheer Day: The Gaspee Affair, a family-friendly living history event at the John Brown House Museum (52 Power St.) on June 2. Please contact Shawn Badgley for additional details.

Undressing History: Women’s Clothes & Unmentionables From the 19th Century takes place on the following dates:

  • Providence:  Tuesday, March 6, 6pm, at the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Aldrich House, 110 Benevolent Street, Providence, RI.  Free and open to the public.  Space is limited; please RSVP here or call 401-331-8575 x360.
  • Newport: Thursday, May 3, 5:30pm, at the Newport Historical Society Resource Center, 82 Touro Street, Newport, RI. General admission costs $5 per person and $1 for NHS members along with active duty military. Space is limited, please RSVP at NewportHistory.org or call 401-841-8770.
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