A Rare Piece of Winter Fashion
When cold weather arrives we pull on the long underwear and add layers until we are comfortable. But what did 18th century New England ladies don as their base layer under fancy dresses?
Woodlawn’s extremely limited clothing collection may provide an answer. Mary Black’s quilted satin, cotton and wool petticoat, now over 250 years old, is insulated and shaped to accompany a formal split-skirt gown worn with it.
This Marseilles-style petticoat was produced in England and likely came to Maine by way of Boston. An identical example is found in the Historic Deerfield collection (HD F.495A) along with detailed information that states, “Quilted in the loom petticoats began to be advertised in London newspapers in 1770, and soon became popular exports to America.” The petticoat with Neoclassical baskets of flowers and ribbon swags embellishing the bottom portion of an otherwise diamond patterned skirt would have been the height of fashion in Maine when Mary Cobb was a young woman. It is not too much of a stretch to speculate that this petticoat has survived because of its importance. Perhaps Mary Cobb wore it on the day she married the promising young Englishman John Black. Regretfully, the accompanying gown did not survive.
Although this garment is too fragile for public display, it is available for study by decorative arts historians. We look forward to discovering more about this 18th century textile and sharing it periodically with the public when our new exhibition space is built.