Thursday, October 22, 2009

republican first ladies from 1800 to and facts...(part 2)

yesterday we started on a journey of fashion and facts of the early history of the republican women first we start off with a lovely bathing suit...actually this was (to me) one of the favorites...i still can't get over the fact that this was a bathing suit...sunscreen not required =)
after skin is showing...

Lucretia Rudolph-Garfield, wife of James A. Garfield, was First Lady of the United States in 1881. Here she is wearing a late 1800-1900 bathing suit. More about that in just a minute.

Her conscientious and genuine hospitality made her dinners and twice-weekly receptions enjoyable. But her time in the White House was short lived.

She became ill and resided at a seaside resort in New Jersey shortly after becoming “First Lady.” That's why the bathing suit. The bathing suit is made from green and white striped cotton. Typically the material for bathing suits of this era would be made of wool. This cotton one is made for comfort in the hotter weather here in California. The skirt wraps around a full jumpsuit to cover all the charms of this bathing beauty. What is amazing is the level of skill that women attained while swimming in all this fabric. Can you imagine the contrast of this suit with today's style? Notice not much skin showing, even without the skirt. Hmm, how about showing a little more without the stockings?

Lucretia Garfield had a short stay at the beach resort. She was brought back to Washington four months into her husband’s presidency, having received word that her husband was shot. The primitive facilities and the lack of surgeons washing their hands brought on the infection that claimed Major General President Garfield's life two months later.

Lucretia lived comfortably on a $350,000 trust fund raised for her and the Garfield children by financier Cyrus W. Field. She relocated to South Pasadena, where she built a home designed by the celebrated architects Greene and Greene to whom she was distantly related. She died at her home in South Pasadena, California on March 14, 1918. So the cotton bathing suit could have come in handy in the later part of her life. The men's bathing suits were a little skimpier. ( not have a pic of those...)
This lovely lady, in the mint green embroidered evening dress, is Mrs. Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur. A talented soprano, Mrs. Arthur performed at benefits around New York. Her husband, Arthur, who was from rural Vermont, is said to have learned the ways of high society from her prominent family. The couple's parties in their Lexington Avenue townhouse in Manhattan were legendary.

Mrs. Arthur, a very fashionable dresser, has on a sheer organza silk embroidered, beaded and pearled gown. The embroidered flowers were appliqued on top of the seams so as to not interrupt the flow of the pattern. The front bodice is fitted with darts. This umbrella skirt style dress is called such because of the full sweeping train that unfolds and flows out back. The skirt has a dust ruffle to catch the dirt as it trains on the floor.

Mrs. Arthur is wearing a corset underneath her bodice, not because she needs it to hold her in, but to help carry the dress. The beading on the dress makes the dress very heavy and the skirt is attached to it.

Perhaps Mrs Ellen Lewis Herndon Authur was wearing such a fashion when she caught her "death of cold" while waiting for a carriage after the opera. Her husband was away on business so he never saw her alive after that. She slipped into a coma and died before he returned, September 1860.

Mrs. Authur had not been dead a year when Chester Author was thrust into the White House on the assassination of Major General James Garfield, 1881. Authur had only served as vice-president six months.

The president's sister Mary McElroy served as hostess and unofficial First Lady while agreeing to look after Chester and Ellen's children.

After taking office as president, Chester A. Arthur had a view of a church and had a stained glass window dedicated to Ellen where he could view it at night as the lights were kept on.

Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison, wife of the 23rd President Benjamin Harrison, was First Lady of the United States 1889 to 1893.

Here she is dressed in a white lawn garden party dress with umbrella. An insert of lace and pleats add more detail to this white on white satin striped gown. The petticoat worn under the dress that can be seen through the inserts was drafted from an original vintage petticoat of the period and also includes multiple rows of pin tucks and lace details.

In the White House Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison managed to assure an extensive renovation with up-to-date improvements. She established the collection of china associated with White House history. She worked for local charities as well. With other ladies of progressive views, she helped raise funds for the Johns Hopkins University medical school on condition that it admit women.

She gave elegant receptions and dinners. In 1891-1892, however, she had to battle illness as she tried to fulfill her social obligations. She died of tuberculosis at the White House in October 1892, and after services in the East Room, was buried from her own church in Indianapolis.

When official mourning ended, Mrs. McKee acted as hostess for her father, Benjamin Harrison, in the last months of his term.
(stayed tuned for part 3)
script by Bobbi Parson Batchelder
Vintage Fashion by Corinne Pleger (Trained at the Fashion Institute of Design in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Corinne has been making costumes for the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Curious Collectors of Baker Street, various Victorian events and museums, as well as Union uniforms for Civil War re-enactments. She teaches at, and has been Dean of, the Costume College at the Costumer's Guild West, and her costumes have won many awards, including Best in Show at the Los Angeles County Fair)

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