Current Exhibitions


May 13 - August 27, 2017

Sumptuous fabrics, vibrant colors and textures, masses of elaborate trims - all are defining elements of fashionable Victorian women's clothing. Nineteenth-century designers had very definite ideas of what constituted beauty, and these concepts had a widespread impact on art and design. Embellishments in Victorian Fashion focuses on how nineteenth-century aesthetics influenced women's clothing design and construction. It features fifity garments from five institutions in Maine and New Hampshire: the Saco Museum, the Irma Bowen Textile Collection of the University of New Hampshire, the Portsmouth Historical Society, Strawbery Banke Museum, and the Woodman Institute of Dover, New Hampshire. A variety of Victorian design concepts are examined in detail, including self-trim, color and texture contrasts, ruching, pleating, ribbon work, and asymmetry.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire Museum, and is curated by textile historian Astrida Schaeffer. For over two decades, Ms. Schaeffer has researched, re-organized, re-housed, and cataloged the University of New Hampshire Museum's Irma Bowen Textile Collection. During this time she, as guest curator, has organized three major exhibitions including her most ambitious enterprise, Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail, an exhibition that included a stunning catalog. Following the UNH Museum's installation of Embellishments in 2012-2013, the exhibition traveled to the New England Quilt Museum in Massachusetts and the Portsmouth Athenaeum in New Hampshire. This fourth iteration of Embellishments, greatly expanded with the addition of garments from the Saco Museum and other institutions, will truly be a feast for the eyes, as well as a wonderful opportunity to look at Victorian fashion in a new light.

A FREE public opening reception will take place at the Saco Museum on Friday, May 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Related Programs:
Guest curator Astrida Schaeffer will present three special programs over the summer:
Friday, June 16, 6:00 p.m., A Curator's Tour
Friday, July 21, 6:00 p.m., Three Dresses Up Close and Personal
Friday, August 18, 6:00 p.m., How Victorians Got So Fancy

Photograph by Brian Smestad.