‘Bonnets to Bellbottoms’ shows history of fashion to Woman’s Club

By Samantha Figueroa - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Thu., Oct. 17, 2013
Karen DePauw of the Connecticut Historical Society presented ‘Bonnets to Bellbottoms’ for the Woman’s Club of Enfield. Photos by Samantha Figueroa.
Karen DePauw of the Connecticut Historical Society presented ‘Bonnets to Bellbottoms’ for the Woman’s Club of Enfield. Photos by Samantha Figueroa.

The Woman’s Club of Enfield recently hosted “Bonnets to Bellbottoms: 100 Years of Fashion – 1860 to 1960,” a presentation given by Karen DePauw of the Connecticut Historical Society. The Woman’s Club of Enfield is a humanitarian civic organization that works to give back to the surrounding community. It has several committees which raise money to help fund events and organizations for the arts, conservation, education, raising money for scholarships, and home life, including organizations such as Paul & Lisa and FIDLECO.

One of the organizers of the Oct. 2 luncheon and fashion event was Linda Strapp, who explained that she thought the presentation would be something fun and informative. “It’s geared to fashion, which is geared to women, usually,” said Strapp, “and fashion usually follows what’s happening in the world.”

The guest speaker, DePauw, grew up participating in reenactments with her family, which inspired her to pursue a career in historical fashion.

“As I got older, I realized how different I felt when I put on the old clothes and the different kind of stories that they told us,” DePauw said. “So I decided to pursue history as a degree and then studied historic fashion to see the cultural and social significance of it.”

Woman’s Club of Enfield member Natalie Hall brought her mother’s wedding dress and a few other fashionable pieces to display in honor of the meeting’s fashion theme.

DePauw’s presentation focused on the shifts in fashion between the years of 1860 and 1960 because of the shift in how people were consuming clothes.  DePauw displayed the social implications of clothing in the 1860s with a slide that showed two dresses - one simple cotton dress in which a woman could move easily to work, while the other dress was more elaborate, made of finer fabrics and was more difficult to move in. According to DePauw, the simpler dress indicated a working-class woman, while the finer dress indicated a woman that was well-off enough to have servants to do thing for her. Throughout the presentation DePauw showed examples of how fashion was influenced by society, economy, world events and influential figures such as Katharine Hepburn, who popularized the everyday wearing of pants for women in the 1930s, and President Harry Truman, who wore short-sleeved button-up shirts in the Oval Office.

“I thought it was wonderful. I thought it was very informative,” said club member Barbara Sackett, who showed a special interest in the history of the corset. “It took me back to the ’40s. I remember giving my grandmother a hug and knowing that I was hugging more than just her.”

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