What better fashion for a lovely spring day in Charleston than a straw hat? Men and women, especially in a climate like Charleston’s, have loved straw hats of all kinds. The man’s boater was popular and stylish from the late 19th century well into the 1940s.

Our classic boater is a sharp Knox Fifth Avenue example with a wide blue striped ribbon band. It was worn in Charleston by George Stephen deMerell (1893-1989). Our collection also contains two additional men’s boaters, both in very poor condition, but both with Charleston retailer labels. A. Beauregard Betancourt (1861-1944) began his haberdashery career with C. C. Plenge, the oldest hat store in South Carolina, at the corner of Broad & Church Streets. He bought the business in 1910, modernizing and improving over the years. The label is also stamped with the owner’s name, R. B. Comar – for Robert B. Comar (1901-1976), who started as a shipping clerk and progressed to vice president of a steamship company in the 1930s. He probably wore this hat in the 1920s and 1930s.

Our other Charleston retailer label is from Berlin Bros. / Downtown / Clothiers & Furnishers / Charleston, S.C. Samuel and Benjamin Berlin took over the business (founded by their father Henry Berlinsky in 1883) in 1912, at the corner of King & Broad Streets. The store continues today as a premier shop for fine clothing. The hat was made by the Townsend Grace Company of New York & Baltimore. Founded in 1885, the company was one of three large straw hat makers in Baltimore, making it the Straw Hat Capitol of the U.S. in the 1920s. At that time the industry had over 3000 workers and produced three million straw hats annually.

Our ladies straw hat offering for spring is this wonderful woven corn shuck hat encircled with sprays of dried flowers and grasses. It too probably dates to the 1920s, with its deep, domed, close-fitting crown. It is lined with white silk.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Get ready for Valentines Day with this gorgeous red velvet dress from the 1920s. Perfect also for a set on Downton Abbey, the red silk velvet sheath dress has a wide self-belt or sash trimmed with long copper beaded fringe. Beading and sequin ornamentation embellish the neck, armholes and front center along with wonderful stylized flowers all over the skirt. The dress simply slips over the head with no additional opening or fasteners, but the skirt is slit up the front, concealed by the wide sash.

This fashionable garment bears a label from Adair / 4 Cité Paradis / Paris and was made probably in the mid to late 1920s. The House of Adair made beaded dresses in France for export to the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Their peak of production was in 1924-1925, closing their doors in the 1930s.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

This fabulous cape from the 1920s is a large rectangle, 50” x 80” which drapes sensuously over the body. One edge is trimmed with flowing white marabou feathers, which extend down the front as lapels. The cape is black net covered with cream chain-stitch crochet, forming a swirling, floral, overall pattern. It is lined with gold silk crepe.

It was worn by the donor, Gertrude Sanford (1902-2000) who married Sidney Legendre in 1929. Born at her family’s summer home in Aiken, SC, she was the daughter of John & Ethel Sanford, part of the wealthy Sanford family (Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company). Athletic, well-traveled and well-educated, she was not only a socialite, but a preservationist, philanthropist, a big-game hunter and a volunteer with the OSS during World War II. Legendre’s flamboyant style could easily handle this stunning, but somewhat exotic, cape, possibly from one of the Parisian design houses. Fashions in the 1920s were flowing, often unstructured, and often ornamented with fur or feathers. This cape would provide the movement and panache that made the 1920s unique.

This cape is on exhibit in Fashion in Fiction October 19, 2013 – April 6, 2014.

View other garments from the Legendre collection:

  1. 1920s evening dress
  2. 1880s dress by Worth
  3. Mme. Virot hat
  4. 1920s  parasol
  5. Worth evening coat
  6. 1890s Worth dress
  7. Fortuny dress and evening coat

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

This fabulous 1920s yellow chiffon dress has all that could be desired in a summer party dress. The basic tunic construction is enhanced with a little extra fullness gathered at the side waist, further supplemented by additional, longer chiffon flounces set off by beaded medallions. The dress is lovely with Egyptian-inspired beadwork in scroll, leaf and sunburst designs worked in clear and gold beads, studded with rhinestones. The dress has an apricot silk slip underneath, giving additional depth to the color. The chiffon would flow and flutter and the beadwork would glitter, providing the perfect shimmering illusion.

While perfect for dancing the night away, beaded chiffon dresses like this one suffered badly from the sweat, fragility of the chiffon and weight of the beading. The majority of the damage is seen at the armholes and shoulder straps. Consequently, the dress is too fragile to go on a mannequin and must be displayed flat.

This gorgeous dress was worn by Julia Schirmer (1889-1985) of Charleston. One of six children, Julia never married; she lived on Smith Street at Bull. Her brother Charles was the city’s first electrician; her nephew, Arthur, was mayor in 1975.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

This little embroidered net overdress from the 1920s has a lot to offer for a summer party. The embroidered panels are set off by heavier lace insertion which form five arches at the low waistline, defining the five skirt panels. The short sleeves and the scalloped hem are of the same lace insertion. The embroidery is beautifully executed floral sprays, gracefully covering the net panels. This overdress could have been worn over a matching slip or a contrasting color for a different effect. While this dress might not be the most daring fashion of the period, it certainly let the wearer be pretty and conform to the basic style with dropped waist and short skirt.

It was probably worn by Maud Bryan Henderson Cosens (1868-1947) of Savannah. Maud married George Augustus Cosens in 1892.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Undergarments of the 1920s were dramatically different from previous decades – less cumbersome, less restrictive (depending on your physique), lighter and more colorful. Many of these newer garments were made of silk (satin, pongee, shantung and crepe de chine) as well as a new synthetic fiber called artificial silk (renamed rayon in 1924). Because the dresses were shorter and less fitted, the slip could be short and tubular or with pleats or gathers at each hip. The teddy was a popular garment, also known as a step-in-combination, being a combination of the chemise and drawers. And the brassiere or bandeau was designed to minimize the breasts, giving a flat-chested, boyish silhouette.

Our examples of these three undergarments all came from the wedding ensemble or trousseau of Mary Sinkler deSaussure of Charleston who married John Lynch McQueen on April 16, 1925. The matching slip and teddy are of ivory china silk with lace insertion and silk embroidery. The slip has gathers at the low waistline and a drawstring through the top lace. This teddy has a stitched crotch, though many had snaps or buttons. Both of these were made by Estelle McQueen McDowell, John’s sister, using lace he brought back from service in France during World War I.

The brassiere is of cream satin with a pink satin rose in the center. The edges are faced with cotton binding tape and the shoulder straps are of satin ribbon. It closes in the back with hooks and eyes and has an elastic extension. On the elastic is the printed label: “610 X Boyshform / Bando 30.” While it is not a severely restrictive flattener, this little bra offers very little room for a curvaceous figure. Boyshform began in 1919 with W. E. Pruzan as its president. He launched a nationwide advertising campaign to establish his trade name as synonymous with a “flat boy-like” silhouette.  He actually took credit for inventing the flattened-breast look. His company was forced into reorganization in 1925 and filed for bankruptcy in 1928.

The low-waisted, full-skirted “robe de style” introduced by designer Jeanne Lanvin in 1915 remained popular throughout the 1920s, featuring a hemline well above the ankles. This silhouette provided a softer, feminine approach to the flapper dress, even without the built-in thigh hoops of Lanvin’s creation. These two party dresses echo that softness, with a swingy approach to pattern and embellishment.

The luxurious light aqua satin charmeuse gown is enhanced by gold and silver lace around the shoulders and the deep hem of the gathered skirt. The low waistline is corded and tucked up in scallops in front. On the left shoulder is a bright pink silk rose corsage. The dress has a side snap placket and is lined with an underdress of apricot silk and silver lame. This stunning dress was worn by Louise Moore Erwin (1895-1952) of Atlanta and Kentucky.

The black chiffon dress has a low waist with cording and a gathered skirt, longer in back – popular throughout the decade. It has a snap closure on the left side. The front is ornamented with gold and silver sequins arranged as ribbons and bows with pink and purple ribbon roses sprinkled on. The hem is edged with the same sequins. There is a gold lamé bow with streamers down the center back, dotted with ribbon flowers. The dress came to the Museum from Mr. & Mrs. Ashby Farrow of Charleston and may have been worn by his mother, Adelaide Lennerton Ferguson Farrow to a Saint Cecelia Ball here.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

These photos from our Archives are (with a few exceptions) of unidentified women, sometimes with very general dates as we had little provenance. If you can provide any assistance in identification, we would be happy to add that information to our cataloguing!

  1. Possibly Barbara Muller Lindstedt, daughter of John D. Muller and Margueretha Agnes Wieters, circa 1925; photography by Melchers Studio.
  2. Unidentified woman wearing a dark dress, or possibly matching coat and dress, with fur trim at the collar and sleeves.  Handwritten in lower, right corner: Sincerely, H.B.P.L.  Photographer and exact date unknown.
  3. Possibly Barbara Muller Lindstedt, daughter of John D. Muller and Margueretha Agnes Wieters, circa 1920; photography by Marions Studio.
  4. Unidentified woman standing in shade near a brick wall, wearing a cloche hat.  Photographer and location unknown. (Appears to be same woman as in MK 13505 - same hat).
  5. Unidentified woman, wearing a coat and cloche hat.  She appears to be standing in front of the bridge at Magnolia Gardens.  Handwritten on the reverse: 1920.  Photographer is unknown.  (Appears to be same woman as MK 9987).
  6. Unidentified woman sitting in a vintage automobile at Magnolia Gardens.  Photographer and exact date unknown.
  7. Unidentified woman on Charlotte Street - possibly in the vicinity of 40 Charlotte.  Handwritten on reverse: by 2nd Presbyterian Ch., house on Charlotte in background, c.1920s. Photographer unknown but note his shadow in the photograph.

The most iconic silhouette for the 1920s is the slender, tubular shift, sometimes with some definition well below the natural waist. For evening wear and parties, these gowns were often of silk or rayon, crepe, chiffon or georgette covered with dazzling beadwork. Perfect for lively dancing, the garments are now usually in self-destruct mode – the heavy beads pulling on the thin fabric and perspiration eating away the underarms.   

But, beautiful they remain, including this Nile green example with bronze and rose beadwork and delicate gold metallic embroidery. The skirt flares slightly and the front and back bodice extends into side flaps on the left side. There is a slit in the skirt panel on the left, revealing the matching chiffon underdress. Both the beading and the extra panels add a stylish note of asymmetry to the dress. It was worn by Helen Eulalie Northrop Wall of Marion, South Carolina. Born in Boise, Idaho in 1891, Eulalie married John Furman Wall in 1912. He was a colonel in the U.S. Army – their daughter Bettie was born in California and their second daughter Helen was born in the Philippines – but they settled in Marion.

Not as embellished, but just as swingy, is this aqua silk shift with a black ribbon lattice panel down the center back, around the lower skirt and in triangular pleats on the sides. The armholes have matching aqua chiffon binding. The front neckline has a delicate line of black beading. A pair of black ribbons ending in fringed tassels extends from the shoulder seam to the front and are slipped through front slits, creating a built-in necklace or sautoir. This dress could have been worn with a matching slip – or perhaps peach or cream for an even more tantalizing appeal.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

Black and white dotted silk chiffon dress with matching jacket, 1920s. This incredibly sheer dress has no lining and delicate lingerie edges. The sleeveless dress has a V neckline in front with a tapering collar extension ending in a long narrow tie. The little unlined jacket is open down the front and has long sleeves that flare out below the elbow, echoing the bias-cut, flared skirt which extends from a low, zig-zag seam.

This swingy flapper-era outfit was worn by Ruth Holmes Gadsden (1895-1980), who was well-known in Summerville, SC society circles.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday