Marjorie L. McLellan (Project Director), Nancy G. Garner (Committee Member), Drew A. Swanson (Committee Member)
Master of Humanities (MHum)
During America’s Progressive Era, the dressmaking and millinery trades offered women unique employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and a real alternative to both middle-class domesticity and the working-class wage. As women became more socially visible through their pursuits in education, employment, and sport, their clothing and headwear began to reflect their active lifestyles. Consequently, women’s journey toward female emancipation post-Civil War set in motion the dramatic decline of the very trades – dressmaking and millinery – which gave the women who worked them social influence, professional respect, and economic independence. For this project, I created a public exhibit in which I designed and constructed seven historical reproduction gowns, including structural undergarments, representative of the dressmaker’s work from late-Reconstruction to WWI. Each gown marked a noticeable transition toward the professional decline of the American dressmaker through four decades of transformation in Progressive Era women’s fashion and industry.
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