Sometimes things just work out. Perfectly. A few months ago, an acquaintance alerted me to an exhibition of 50 (yes 50!) Victorian gowns. “Sounds great”, I replied, “Where is it?” “In Saco, Maine”, came the response. Gasp! “That’s a little over 3,000 miles away, but thanks for thinking of me!”, I replied and quickly filed that remote possibility into the recesses of my fashion-bent brain. That is, until fate stepped in and our presence was requested (or required, as is the way of my family) at a family reunion in Ogunquit, Maine. Now Ogunquit is a cute little town on the southern coast of Maine, somewhat like a really uptight version of Ptown. But it just so happens that Ogunquit is about a 20 minute drive from Saco, and we would have to be there during the exhibition timeframe. Fate hit a home run, in my eyes.
I praised the fates (oh you precious muses of opportunity!) heavily in the moment when I not only realized I would be able to catch the exhibition, but that I would also be able to attend a curatorial discussion about the gowns.
Arriving about an hour early to give myself time to ogle everything before the talk began, I kept thinking “I feel like I have seen this somewhere before”. Grabbing a copy of the catalogue it was then I realized that I had, of course, seen some of the gowns before—just not in person. The curator, Astrida Schaeffer, was the author of one of my newest library additions “Embellishments, Constructing Victorian Detail” (currently out of print, I believe). My insides began cartwheeling.
That evening, Ms. Schaeffer offered us a chance to get up close and very personal with the construction methods and minuscule detailing of a selection of gowns. She offered insight into how the gowns came into the collections of museums, and details into the personal lives of some of the wearers whose gowns had been given by family or by those that discovered them. One was even found stuffed into the wall of an attic! (on a personal note—I would love to make a discovery like that someday!)