Our curators go the extra mile when they’re researching an exhibition!
Wearing historically accurate dress, inside and out, Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson recently attended the Jane Austen Evening in Pasadena, CA. Sponsored by the Society for Manners & Merriment, this annual event consists of dancing, refreshments and entertainment in the spirit of Jane Austen’s era. Aside from enjoying an evening out, Kevin and Christina had a serious mission: field research for FIDM Museum's Fall 2013 Empire & Romantic exhibition, which will focus on the years 1800-1835. The lifetime of celebrated author Jane Austen (1775-1817) coincides with this era, so the Jane Austen Evening was the perfect opportunity for Kevin and Christina to kick-off their research.
This photo captures Kevin and Christina in their reproduction ensembles. Christina wears a gown of plum silk based on a French fashion plate and flat leather dancing slippers with ribbon ties. Kevin wears a white shirt and cravat, fall front breeches, waistcoat (vest) and dress coat. Their ensembles were designed by Mela Hoyt-Heydon, friend of the FIDM Museum, union costume designer for the entertainment industry and faculty member at Fullerton College Theatre Arts Department. Most of the costume elements were designed by Mela for a stage production of Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice.
After attending the Jane Austen Evening, Kevin understands why gentlemen of Jane Austen's era always brought a change of linens to Assemblies: dancing is a cardio workout! Also, it's tiring to keep your arms in the proper dance position all evening. Christina learned that wearing a corset greatly improves a lady's deportment, and that fans are necessary after an evening of dancing in a packed ballroom.
Stay tuned for occasional updates as Kevin and Christina develop themes and select objects for this 2013 exhibition. They’re on the hunt for enlightening resources describing the dress and society of 1800-1835. If you know of something useful, send us your suggestions!