Welcome to our past exhibit on the sustainable fashion in Victorian America. This page is a work-in-progress as we’ll be adding photographs, articles, and references to lectures held on the topic.

Ann Louisa Lockwood, ca. 1860s, LMMM Collection.

Making It Last: Sustainable Fashion in Victorian America

May 19, 2022 – November 6, 2022

Curated by Lynne Zacek Bassett

As popular historical dramas such as HBO’s The Gilded Age, Netflix’s Bridgerton, and Apple TV+’s Dickinson have piqued public interest in period costumes, and Eco-fashion is currently a hot topic of discussion, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum explored the recycling philosophy of the 19th century, as well as the dangerous practices used to create the magnificent gowns worn by high society.

Green gown, ca. 1860s, LMMM Collection, photo courtesy of Sarah Grote Photography.

The exhibition discussed Victorian-era clothing care and fashionable materials, drawing comparisons to today’s companies that support sustainability, while also highlighting some of the 19th century’s hazardous practices, including the use of chemicals and metals such as arsenic and mercury in the manufacturing of popular textiles, faux flowers, and statement hats.

The Arsenic Waltz, representing the effect of arsenical dyes and pigments in clothing and accessories, wood engraving, 1862, Wellcome Collection.
A mother and her children work at dangerous flower making, photograph by Lewis Hine, 1915, National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The exhibition was by Lynne Zacek Bassett, an independent scholar specializing in New England’s historic costume and textiles, with the assistance of the LMMM Curatorial Committee co-chaired by Trustees Mimi Findlay and Paul Veeder.

Exhibit sponsored in part by

CT Humanities Supports the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

2022 Exhibit Partner

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