What Clothes Reveal


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The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America

Linda Baumgarten

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $70.00
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Paintings of upper-class men and women tell an important part of the history of costumes, but surviving garments themselves reveal even more. Every crease, stitch, and stain in a piece of clothing supplies information about its wearer and its era. This stunning book features eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century garments from the premiere collection of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Illustrated with more than 300 color photographs, including many details and back views, the book treats not only elegant, high-style clothing in colonial America but also garments for everyday and work, the clothing of slaves, and maternity and nursing apparel.

Drawing on contemporary written descriptions and on actual costumes of the period, the book analyzes what Americans in the eighteenth century considered fashionable and attractive and how they used clothing to assert status or to identify occupations. The book also examines the myths and meanings of clothing in British and American society, clothing for the entire lifecycle, and a history of clothing alteration. Informative sidebars on a variety of fascinating topics complete the volume.

Linda Baumgarten is curator of textiles and costumes at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Colonial Williamsburg Collection
Williamsburg Decorative Arts Series

"This important title blends history and fashion in a coverage which includes formal clothing to daily garments, and which also includes apparel of slaves and nursing apparel. The wealth of historical background and information is complimented by color photos throughout. [An] unusual and exceptional recommendation."—Bookwatch

"Lush illustrations. . . . A useful tool for teaching and reference. Extensive notes and selected bibliography volume. Recommended. All levels/collections."—Choice

“Hats off to Linda Baumgarten and Colonial Williamsburg. They have put together a book that is an exhibit catalogue, synthesis, and a piece of decorative art itself. Like the museum, What Clothes Reveal is worth its high price of admission.”—David Waldstreicher, Common-Place

“Superlative quality of . . . photography and presentation. . . . What Clothes Reveal makes a wonderful text book for students, as it not only includes a wealth of factual information on historical dress, but also outlines how to carry out analysis of the material record, information rarely documented in dress history literature. . . . Yale Press, too, must be thanked for such a high level of production. What Clothes Reveal sets a new and very high standard of publishing on the material record of dress publishing.”—Susan North, Costume Society

"Beautifully produced. . . . Like the best of exhibition catalogs, this book reaches far beyond the objects presented. . . . Well written, well priced, and full of pertinent details about the daily lives of our American ancestors, this book for both scholars and casual readers is recommended for all libraries."—Library Journal

"What Clothes Reveal is, in equal measure, an excellent lay person's introduction to the history of dress, and a vehicle for the author to show the non-clothing historian the potential that clothing has for our understanding of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century America. . . . A great read for non-specialists, a valuable resource for historians not used to looking at objects, and an essential tool for introducing students to the history of clothing in the Americas."—Emma Hart, Textile History

“Baumgarten is perfectly positioned to examine the role of fashion in colonial and federal America. . . . Historically informed, engaging prose. . . . The book will prove indispensable to students, historians, curators, and amateur collectors who use artifacts or who want to better understand the clothing of the colonial and federal periods.”—Linzy Brekke, The New England Quarterly

Winner of the 2003 Millia Davenport Publication Award given by the Costume Society of America

Chosen as an "Outstanding" Title in the 2003 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
ISBN: 9780300095807
Publication Date: October 11, 2002
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
256 pages, 9 x 12
36 b/w + 355 color illus.
Four Centuries of Quilts

The Colonial Williamsburg Collection

Linda Baumgarten and Kimberly Smith Ivey; With a foreword b

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