Bonnets and Petticoats: an exhibit of Victorian clothing with a seamstress workshop, Aug. 7-9

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What would it be like to walk three miles wearing a cage petticoat made with metal hoops under a skirt made of four yards of fabric? How hot would it be under a top hat made of beaver pelt? What in the world are split drawers and why would women in the 19th century want to wear them? Stop in at Bonnets and Petticoats: An Exhibit of Victorian Clothing with a Seamstress Workshop to learn about the hats and undergarments worn in days gone by.

The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center will open the exhibit and workshop for three days: August 7, 8 and 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. $5 admission will benefit the nonprofit museum. Enjoy lemonade and cookies on the grand piazza, stroll through the mansion to see tops hats from Paris, simple and fancy bonnets, hats made of felt, velvet and silk with ostrich feathers, flowers and beads, and a collection of antique hat boxes including one of Major Stanley Washburn’s.

The exhibit has been curated by Sheri Leahan, a Norlands Volunteer who was instrumental in the cataloguing of more than 1300 textiles during the museum’s disaster recovery project this spring. You can read more  about that project on our website In addition to hats , caps and bonnets for babies, women and gentlemen, Leahan has also organized selections from the museum’s collection of period petticoats, nightgowns, chemises, bloomers, pantaloons and dressing gowns for the exhibit. As remarkable as the number of layers of clothing worn by our Victorian ancestors is the beauty and detail that embellished their undergarments. Eyelet details, tatting, hand woven lace and embroidery adorn even the infant garments. There are also examples of simple functional garments, like corsets that fasten with lacing and buttons.

Take your inspiration into the kitchen and help (or watch) as volunteers sew reproduction bonnets and petticoats to be worn by the Living History Interpreters at the museum. Try on a few bonnets! The exhibit is part of the statewide Maine Fiber Arts Tour Weekend, with more than 130 destinations statewide. You can find the map on

For more information about the exhibit and workshop at the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, 290 Norlands Road, Livermore, Maine, please call us at 207-897-4366.

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