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Clothing & Textiles: 18th Century Dress Fashion


This dress was donated by Phoebe Helmer Wadsworth Weston. Phoebe first married Seymour Wadsworth of New Canaan, and lived with him on North Wilton Road until his death. Later, Phoebe married Gerritt Van Ingen Weston, and the couple remained in New Canaan. 

This dress features elements of 18th century fashion, with its ¾ length sleeves ending in a draped fabric, as well as the open-front gown and matching petticoat. The outer-garment features a high collar and trim with militaristic components. Tailored styles of military uniforms found their way into women’s clothing, with 19th century women wearing clothing inspired by officers’ uniforms, perhaps as a way to show solidarity with their husbands. 

The Museum’s collection includes not only authentic historical garments, but also costumes of great significance. This green striped dress, with elements inspired by myriad time periods, is actually a costume that would have been worn in a stage production. Indeed, records indicate that this dress was worn by Geraldine Farrar, one of America’s greatest opera and film stars of the early 20th century. Upon her retirement in 1922, a number of costumes and gowns were also retired and sold at auction. A few generous donors purchased some of these articles and later donated them to the Historical Society. About the time of World War II, Miss Farrar moved to Ridgefield where she lived until her death in 1967.