Fashion Tales Come to the March 23, 2011 HSR Meeting

Dear Readers: Mrs. Susan Dechnik, HSR Board member and one of my former teaching partners at RPS, writes today’s entry to accompany all of the great photos that she took at our recent meeting.  – JMcCormick

What can a purse tell about history or a hat about the man who wore it?  Ms. Kate Butler of and Mr. Greg Cristiano, proprietor of Teardrop, brought their eclectic assortment of heirlooms and collectibles to the March HSR meeting to show us. They shared their extensive knowledge of antique apparel in the informative program, “Ladies and Gentlemen’s Accessories of the Past Victorian, Edwardian, and Depression Eras.”

Ms. Butler’s collection included antique purses, millinery, footwear, and vanity collectibles.  From handbags to hats and everything in between, including a Victorian-era bathing costume, Kate served up a richly illustrated account of how familiar objects changed through the centuries.

Greg Cristiano, Ms. Butler’s collaborator for the male portion of the fashion discussion, spoke authoritatively about mourning attire, mourning mementos, and men’s clothing items and accessories. Among other things, he brought a 19th century undertaker’s hat, a full-length black bearskin coat, and several unusual decorative mourning items constructed from the hair of the deceased loved one.

In the interactive part of the program the pair invited audience members to have vintage fashion items which they had brought evaluated. Often, the article came with a story connecting it to the owner’s relative, to which the presenters then added expert knowledge about the function and history of the piece. The lecture proved to be a fun and engaging way to relate to history and show how changing fashions and personal items can tell a fascinating story. Click here to download a video clip from the presentation. (It is less than two minutes, but it is a 102MB file.)  – Mrs. Susan Dechnik, HSR Board Member