The Mary Todd Lincoln “Culture of Clothing” presentation on Tuesday November 12, 2012 took place at the Driehaus Museum Chicago. This event was developed by the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and featured Mary Lincoln’s fashions as a homemaker, a first lady and a widow in mourning after the loss of three sons and a husband. Mira Horoszowski of Mira Couture produced new versions of the four Lincoln dresses. Women’s roles in American society changed significantly in the second half of the 19th century, propelled by war, industrialization and women’s own drive for equality. Their fashions changed, too, which Mary Lincoln’s clothing reflected.
Mira entertained us with her passion of this huge undertaking. It took “months and months” to complete the 4 gowns. She could not sleep and kept thinking about the project. She was thrilled to find the exact same black Chantilly lace for the white gown and found it from what she believes had to be the same place in Paris as the original. She decided to make the dresses an average size so they could be worn for presentations such as these, even though Mary Todd Lincoln was very tiny, even though she got a little bigger with age. Some of the models have blond hair were told not to worry – they made wigs with black hair. Mira made us laugh about driving around with the four wigs on mannequin heads bobbing in the back seat of her car!
Models in the new versions of the dresses and jewelry mingled with visitors and answered questions about the clothing. Actresses portraying Mary Todd Lincoln and Lincoln’s African-American seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley were there “in person” to discuss their work and women’s lives in that era. Mary Todd Lincoln told us that she really had a bit of a shopping problem and was extravagant, but she was misunderstood. She was a forward-thinking woman and may have been too modern for her day, and she had to mourn the loss of her brother, two sons and her husband.
The “Culture of Clothing” events are part of a year-long look at Mary Lincoln’s life and the role of 19th century women. Other events included two re-trials of the former first lady on insanity charges and a panel discussion that compared 19th and 21st century mental health laws, treatment and attitudes.
Tickets are available at WasMaryLincolnCrazy.com for the November 19th “Culture of Clothing” event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 8:30. Tickets are $25 per person.
– Carol Calacci
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Tags: Director for Library Services at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, Justice Anne M. Burke, Kathryn Harris, Lincoln dresses Mira Couture, Maria Bakalis, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln Culture of Clothing, Mary Todd Lincoln Culture of Clothing Chicago, Mira Couture, Mira Horoszowskiwas of Mira Couture, Richard H. Driehause Museum