July 20, 2015 – March 4, 2016
The exhibition highlights Philadelphia’s many important contributions to making clothing and shaping style over two centuries, which have largely been forgotten today. Home to modest Quakers, prosperous free blacks, well-heeled international transplants, and working classes of all sorts, Philadelphia was America’s most cosmopolitan city from the late 18th through the 19th century. Chestnut Street in particular enjoyed a reputation for being as fashionable as the grand thoroughfares of Paris and London.
In addition to being known for stylish residents, Philadelphia gained a reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse by the 19th century. Called the “Workshop of the World,” the city supported countless manufacturers producing goods used in the fashion industry. The tanneries, ironworks, and mills made the leather, metal, and cloth that a thriving community of shoemakers, tailors, and milliners fashioned into parasols, hoop skirts, shawls, and hats.
Wendy Woloson, Rutgers University-Camden, Guest Curator