As popular historical dramas such as Bridgerton and Dickinson have recently piqued public interest in period costumes, and Eco-fashion is currently a hot topic of discussion among consumers and professionals in the fashion industry, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum will explore the recycling philosophy of the 19th century with a new costume exhibition titled, Making It Last: Sustainable Fashion in Victorian America.

Green gown, ca 1860s, LMMM Collection, photo courtesy of Sarah Grote Photography

Making It Last will open on May 19, 2022, at 12 p.m. with a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and run through Nov. 6, 2022, at 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT. The exhibition will be curated by Lynne Zacek Bassett, an independent scholar specializing in New England’s historic costume and textiles, with the assistance of the LMMM Curatorial Committee co-chaired by Trustees Mimi Findlay and Paul Veeder.

The exhibition will discuss Victorian-era clothing care and fashionable materials, drawing comparisons to today’s companies that support sustainability, while also highlighting some of the 19th century’s hazardous practices, including the use of chemicals and metals such as arsenic and mercury in the manufacturing of popular textiles, faux flowers, and statement hats.

“This exhibition promises to be beautiful and thought-provoking,” said Ms. Bassett. “What lessons can we learn from people in the Victorian era, who took measures to make a garment last as long as possible? And how were garments recycled once they were beyond salvaging for their original use? I hope that visitors are encouraged to think about what they can do to combat the environmental and human impact of ‘fast fashion’.”

From 1995‒2000, Ms. Bassett was the curator of textiles and fine arts at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Since going independent, her projects have included curating more than a dozen exhibitions, garnering several national and state awards, and praise in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, and Museum magazine. Her most recent exhibition, “New London County Quilts & Bed Covers, 1750‒1825,” appeared at the Florence Griswold Museum earlier in 2022. Her contribution to the field of historic costume and textiles has been recognized by the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Historic New England, and the International Quilt Museum, which have all elected her to membership in their honorary or advisory societies.

The exhibition is made possible by CT Humanities with generous funding provided by Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) from the Connecticut State Legislature and LMMM’s Founding Patrons: The Estate of Mrs. Cynthia Clark Brown;LMMM’s Leadership Patrons: The Sealark Foundation; and LMMM’s 2022 Season Distinguished Benefactors: The City of Norwalk, The Maurice Goodman Foundation and Lockwood-Mathews Foundation, Inc.

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