Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What Were They Thinking?

By Brianne Harrison

We’ve all been there: seen someone walking down the street, in a movie, or--dare we admit it?—looked at old pictures of ourselves and cringed, wondering what on earth made that outfit seem appealing at the time. When it comes to fashions of the past, that reaction becomes very common indeed. What made the giant shoulderpads of the 1980’s or the torturously corseted bodies of the 19th and early 20th centuries seem like a good idea?

That’s the question “What Were They Thinking? 160 Years of Bad Taste” sets out to explore. The show, currently on at the Carriage House Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, leaps nimbly through fashion history, touching on the hoopskirts of the mid-19th century to the crinolines and beehives of the 50’s to 90’s bling and millennial pocket dogs. See how fashion evolved with the times, becoming looser or more rigid as society dictated.

If you’re in the mood for more history after seeing this exhibit, stop by “HERstory”, a new tour at the estate that explores the changing roles of women in the Victorian era, a time when, even though a woman ruled the largest and most powerful empire in the world, her contemporaries were told to stay in their parlors and be pretty and quiet. Not all of them were content with that. Learn about both the ideal Victorian ladies and the tough women who fought against their traditional roles and created the first Women’s Movement.

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