As we approach the last weekend for the Styling an American Family exhibition at Craftsman Farms, we present one last installment of our virtual tour. The exhibition continues on the second floor of the Log House where we will make two stops.
Our first stop is in the Girls’ Bedroom, where after a department store shopping spree in New York City, a young lady helps her friend into a new evening dress (black was the favored color for formal dinners).
This bedroom was shared by four of the five Stickley daughters: Mildred, Marion, Hazel and Ruth, who ranged in age from 23 to 13. Eldest daughter Barbara, 24, married Ben Wiles, then circulation director for The Craftsman magazine, in October 1911. They lived in a cottage on Craftsman Farms.
New York City was the fashion capital of the United States, much as it is today. The stretch of 6th and 5th avenues running north from 14th Street to 57th Street was known as the Ladies Mile, with hundreds of shops specializing in dresses, hats, gloves, undergarments, perfumes and jewelry. The largest women’s department stores in the world were there and several from the time still exist: Lord & Taylor, Saks, Henri Bendel and Macy’s. In an essay titled “The Stickley Family at Craftsman Farms,” in Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms: A Pictorial History, David Cathers wrote that “by all accounts (Barbara) loved the city and, like her father, spent many evenings at the theater.”
Though many still opted for handmade garments, manufactured clothing offered broad choices at prices for most economic levels. Under garments were chosen for the outfit under which they would be worn. The basic layering started with a camisole followed by a corset, then a full-length slip or ‘combination’ (a slip with legs), at least one petticoat, then the
dress or ensemble.
Fashion options abounded for women of this time. Women and girls were leading increasingly more active lives as sports like basketball, tennis, skating and motoring gained popularity and were no longer considered improper activities. So women’s clothing became less restrictive and more functional. David Cathers notes about Stickley’s daughters that they are all “remembered for their lively sense of humor, but Marion’s was perhaps the liveliest.” Marion particularly liked to drive, and often picked her father up from the train station.
Across the hall in the Master Bedroom are two young ladies with their mother and a housemaid, finishing the packing details for a winter cruise to a warm locale. This vignette is inspired by a trip Mrs. Stickley and two of her daughters made to Bermuda in 1913. Much like sending the family to the cool mountains in the summer, as the Stickleys also enjoyed, traveling to a warm locale to escape winter was a part of upper middle class life.
Dressing for travel meant packing a wardrobe of formal clothing appropriate to being seen in public at any time of day or night. Social conformity required different costumes for morning, afternoon and evening. Since a great volume of clothing was required, packing required trunks. The cleverest trunks had sections for clothing on hangers as well as drawers for smaller items. For each woman, a minimum of two trunks was typically needed for a trip of a week or less.
The mother and her daughters are dressed for winter but the clothing being packed is for spring and summer.
The housemaid in the vignette is signified by her simple all-black dress with no apron. She would have worn an apron while cleaning. Packing would have been the maid’s responsibility. The women would choose the clothing they wanted to take and the housemaid would see that it was cleaned, ironed and packed in an orderly way.
Styling an American Family: The 1910s at Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms is an exhibition of historic fashions from Syracuse University’s Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection. The exhibition, on view through January 6, 2013, consists of 35 mannequins in historic period dress arranged in 9 environmental vignettes that illustrate some of the emblematic everyday activities and pursuits of an upper middle class American family in the 1910s, giving visitors the unique opportunity to view the human form within Gustav Stickley’s architectural masterpiece.