Palestine Preservation Projects Society members modeled a charming and extensive collection of dresses ranging from the closets of Martha Washington in 1789 to a 20th century beaded silk cocktail dress at the recent Harper House high tea and style show.

Mrs. Washington, portrayed by Lugene Bond, Robinson, was accompanied by a “common woman,” Betty Lou Lawhead, Robinson, from the late 18th century who explained that women of the time in the eastern colonies often wore their night dresses all day and for several days as underclothing with their skirt and waistcloth over the top.

Head coverings, bags, and often shoes were also part of many of the outfits for the style show.

Women who were married to more prosperous farmers might wear two skirts and keep one tucked up under their waistband so that if company came by they could untuck it and have on a clean skirt.

The handbags of the time were fastened around the waist and were often extensively decorated by hand stitching. The more intricate stitching, the more likely the skilled young lady would be considered favorably as candidate for marriage.

Greek goddesses were the inspiration of dresses worn around the time Palestine became an incorporated village, 1811. Two hundred years ago women who could afford to be in style wore dresses with scooped necklines gathered in an empire waist under the bodice.

The dresses were straight in an A line with some subtle gathers around the bustle area. The ladies often wore fingerless long gloves, tucked modesty collars into their necklines, and wore straw bonnets adorned with feathers over a cap.

An authentic gown was modeled by Polly Rapp and another by Myrna McNair, both of Palestine.

An 1830 original black Sunday suit with beaded bonnet, belonging to Reba Nave Goodwin, was modeled by Rosemary Ellis, Palestine. She carried her own carpet bag, the type popularly used for travel during that time.

Victorian dresses made of gingham and calico were the style of the prairie pioneer women of the mid 1800s. These ankle length dresses with high collars and fitted sleeves adorned with ruffles were often accompanied by matching large sun bonnets. Barbara Hardesty Miller, Palestine, modeled such a dress made by her mother. An 1830 settler’s outfit consisting of skirt, top and apron was worn by Valerie Fulling, Palestine, who also helped serve. Judy Beckes, Palestine, and Penny Lycan, Robinson, also helped serve in similar outfits.

Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln attended the high tea. High tea does not denote the class of the attendees but that the tea is served at a high table rather than the low sofa table from which tea is served later in the afternoon. High tea is usually more like a meal, marked by the six courses ranging from a fruit cup to chicken salad and cucumber finger sandwiches with cheesy potato soup. Sweet-loving palates were also satisfied by pecan kringle and cake with caramel sauce with a piece of Christmas fudge.

Mrs. Lincoln, portrayed by Bond, was dressed in the inaugural gown she wore to President Lincoln’s first inauguration. The gown, an ankle length creation of rose covered fabric, was accented by a pink parasol, large dangly pearl earrings and a freshwater pearl necklace, all popular in the 1860s. Mrs. Lincoln’s gown was copied from photographs of her at the inauguration by Lawhead.

Myrna McNair modeled a night gown which had been owned and worn in the 1860s by Blanche Kirkwood McClaflin, great grandmother of Mary Lee Shaw. The gown was made of soft muslin with red embroidery for decoration. Buttoning all the way down the front, the waist down was fastened with straightforward buttons in a placket but from the waist up the placket hid the buttons inside the gown. A nightcap was also worn during this time in history.

From the 1930s a summer silk suit owned by Senator Madge Green was worn by Ellis. A fox stole, also very popular in the 30s, accompanied the silk suit.

The suit and hat were ordered from Paris, France. The suit featured an intricately pleated top and straight calf length skirt. Accompanying her and dressed for a formal night on the town in Green’s winter coat with a white ermine fur collar, muff and scarf was Nita Jochim.

Kayla Goodwine, Palestine, and Alayna Griffin, Robinson, were young ladies who also helped keep the attendees’ plates full of tea sandwiches and special salads. Griffin sported a formal afternoon tea dress of pink embroidered crepe from the late 1930s. Goodwine modeled an 8th grade graduation chemise with a chiffon overlay from 1947.

Jackie Shaw, Palestine, modeled an original navy crepe dress designed by Fern Kincaid Shaw in the late 1930s. It had diagonal flat ruffles front and side with flowing back panels. A cream hat topped off the ensemble. Navy blue shifts topped by a pillbox hat were made popular by Jacqueline Kennedy in the early 1960s when her husband was in The White House.

Easy care polyester was a far more affordable alternative fabric developed in the 20th century which was easy to wash and wrinkle free. All kinds of garments were mass produced during this time in garment factories for retail sale. Men’s suits to women’s dresses and suits were made popular. Pat Kincaid, Palestine, wore a green polyester one-piece dress with a beige hat and purse and gold jewelry, also popularly worn by women through the 1980s.

Mary Lee Shaw donned a black beaded evening shift appropriate for a late 20th century night at a cocktail party. Each string of pearls and beads were hand sewn with a stitch similar to a quilting stitch.



The Historic Harper House is available for meetings & catered dinner parties.
Please contact us for details.
Phone 618.586.9418

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P.O. Box 87, Palestine, IL 62451

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