Costume Lecture at Clermont

I attended a talk given by Kjirsten Gustavson, Curator of Education at Clermont State Park, titled “Alice’s Gilded Age: Costumes at Clermont Historic Site”on March 17th.  Before a packed audience in the mansion’s kitchen, Ms. Gustavson set the stage for the lecture by offering two different ideas.   The first was to acknowledge the current interest in the clothing styles worn by characters in the popular series  “Downton Abbey”, and the second was to address the popular misconception of Alice Livingston’s rather dowdy appearance in family photographs taken at Clermont. Starting from those two angles, Ms. Gustavson showed slides of Mrs. Livingston dressed in fashionable attire prior to her marriage. We also looked at slides of some of Alice’s garments from the Clermont archives, that could have been lifted right off the wardrobe rack of the PBS miniseries.  Aided by images from fashion plates and advertising from the period, she then wove an incredibly intricate but coherent story not only of Alice Livingston’s personal life and the circumstances that influenced her fashion choices, but set them in the context of changes happening concurrently in women’s fashion, their role in society and the world in general, from the highly traditional Victorian era through the turbulent years of the World War I.   The audience was audience incredibly engaged, frequently asking Ms Gustavson questions or adding comments of their own.  At the end of the talk, the audience trooped upstairs, where several of Alice’s costumes that were seen the lecture  were on display.  It went beyond being an interesting and very informative talk.  It really added another dimension to the site and its story. 

Hudson Valley Walk #3: A Walk Around My Block