An Unusual Fashion Show
A glimpse into the past
An unusual fashion show scheduled Saturday, May 19, will offer local women a glimpse into the past. “A Day in the Life … Notable Women of Belfast and Their Fashions,” sponsored by the Women of St. Margaret’s Church and the Belfast Historical Society and Museum, will reveal not only the vintage attire and accessories women favored at the turn of the last century, but also their attitudes, charities and politics.
Megan Pinette, historical society president, will provide a running commentary about women’s clothing, community contributions and concerns while 14 local women and girls model more than two dozen outfits — tea dresses, formal gowns, “walking ensembles” and nightwear. The dresses and all the pertinent accessories – hats, gloves, fans, parasols, shawls — come from several private collections in Belfast and from the museum’s own stock.
“I’m going to talk about how a certain class of women, the upper class, went beyond being involved in granges and church societies to become involved with social problems,” said Pinette. She will tell how Belfast women, like their counterparts in more urban areas, started focusing on improving their city, first by cleaning it up, clearing it of trash, then by aiding the lives of those who needed help. They started the Girls Home for orphans and girls who could no longer live at home. They saw to their education as well as their housing.
“These were the women who provided the money for building St. Margaret’s Church, for building the reading room at the library… the improvements to the Crosby School,” said Pinette. “And then there was the whole suffrage movement, they were very active in that.” Pinette will tell of the first Belfast woman to register to vote in 1920 – Essie Carle. Four hundred others followed her lead that year.
Pinette has a favorite among the dresses to be shown, a ball gown worn by Louise Johnson Pratt, the wife of Admiral William V. Pratt, one of the top ranking officers in the U.S. Navy. “She was the first president of the Belfast Suffrage League and she had this wonderful pink satin and velvet and rhinestone ball gown made by the House of Worth in Paris, France. She paid $400 in gold for it, a one-of-a-kind designer dress that she wore for a presidential ball,” said Pinette. Too fragile to be modeled, it will be displayed on a mannequin.
Among the garments to be modeled are a black satin beaded dress, a black velour dress with lace and colored flowers, a green lace dress, a white lace dress with bias striping, several cutwork and lace tea dresses, a black velvet long-sleeved gown and a nightgown with pink night cap.
The idea for the fashion show came from Chris Urick and Carol Whittle of St. Margaret’s Church. They’d organized a Vintage Bridal Show two years ago as a fundraiser. The response was enthusiastic. The show sold out in advance. “We thought we’d do something similar but not limit it to bridal outfits,” said Urick. So when she and Whittle heard Pinette’s presentation to the garden club last October about the Belfast Village Improvement Society, it clicked. “We asked Megan if she would be willing to collaborate with us on a vintage fashion show and give a talk about the prominent women of Belfast during that era,” said Urick.
The show will be at St. Margaret’s Parish House, 95 Court St., Belfast, at 2 p.m. May 19. The Women of St. Margaret’s will serve lemonade and cupcakes. Tickets, $10, are limited and available in advance by calling Whittle at 338-5148. Proceeds will benefit both the Belfast Historical Society and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church and its charities.