“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” — Rachel Zoe
Many of us spend time thinking about what we wear and what these choices say about our personality, interests, position, and beliefs. This has been true throughout history. Yet, over time the coded messages in material culture of the American past have become harder for us to read. A bright red cape, a vest made of fabric imported from China, or a cuff decorated with lace made in London may have been used to demonstrate wealth, the reach of one’s trade, or political loyalty. In 1765 Boston, the make and material of a waistcoat could be read as clearly as a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat is today.
The Massachusetts Historical Society has spent the last two years delving into its collections to uncover stories as told by various examples of clothing, fabric, accoutrements, and associated manuscripts. Through this process, textiles that have largely been divorced from their familial ties have been reunited with family papers. Later this year, we hope to share them with the world through Fashioning the New England Family, a project encompassing a publication, exhibition, and online presentation. But we need your help to bring these stories to life.
“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.” — Marc Jacobs
What is Fashioning the New England Family? This is a project that will make accessible the dynamics of fashion, textiles, and costume across the span of our history. The MHS will produce an exhibition and companion volume to fully explore the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces.
This is a unique and significant endeavor. Many of the items that will be featured in the project have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The publication and exhibition will give scholars, students, and professionals in fields such as fashion, material culture, and history the chance to see these items for the first time; encourage research; and, provide the possibility for new discoveries. For the public, it is an opportunity to view in detail painstaking craftsmanship, discover how examples of material culture relate to significant moments in our history, and learn how garments were used as political statements, projecting an individual’s religion, loyalties, and social status. It may allow some to recognize and appreciate family keepsakes but it will certainly help us all to better understand the messages we may have previously missed in American art and literature. The MHS is dedicated to producing the exhibition but we need your help to create the companion volume!
Our project page will be updated with fun facts, images, and video clips throughout the month of February. Check it out at www.masshist.org/fashion!
Why Create a Companion Volume?
Planned as a high-quality, full-color publication, this volume will serve both as a record of the exhibition and as a testament to the importance of the textiles and garments it illustrates and describes. The themes and subject matter pursued in the exhibition also provide the frames of reference for the book, which will include a preface by Catherine Allgor, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a foreword by Anne E. Bentley, MHS Curator of Art and Artifacts. The primary author of the publication and guest curator of the exhibition is Dr. Kimberly S. Alexander. Learn more about the authors and curators involved with this project at www.masshist.org/fashion. We need YOU to help bring these stories out of their boxes and on to the pages!
What’s in the Budget?
While the entire project will cost around $100,000, we have set a Kickstarter campaign goal of $15,000 to produce the companion volume. We want to provide as many people as possible the opportunity to be part of this project. The companion volume is a natural fit for both the Kickstarter community and our mission to make this project as widely accessible as possible. The companion volume will be a lasting resource, serving as both a record of the exhibition and as a testament to the importance of the textiles and garments it illustrates and describes. We are counting on you and other members of the Kickstarter community to make this publication a reality.
What Are the Rewards?
First and foremost – our gratitude! The ability to produce a companion volume remains the primary goal of the Society’s Kickstarter campaign. A gift at any level will go towards helping us bring this project to life. All donations also come with an opportunity to be named and publicly thanked as a Kickstarter backer on the Society’s project page at www.masshist.org/fashion. Donations at $15 and more also receive a set of postcards, exclusive to Kickstarter!
A successful campaign also means that backers of the project at $50 or more on Kickstarter will be the first to receive the “Fashioning the New England Family” companion volume.
Backers of the project at higher levels get even more opportunities to engage with and learn about our textile collection. Be sure to check out the special event invitations, tours, and behind-the-scenes opportunities different rewards offer for supporting this project.
If our project is completed and the goal is met, you will be asked to fill out a survey so that we can send you your rewards. The MHS is unable to provide your rewards or recognize any gift you made unless the informational survey is completed.
Once rewards are shipped, please allow an additional 4-6 weeks for your reward(s) to ship internationally. Note: we are not responsible for international custom fees.
INFORMATION ABOUT TOUR REWARDS
Some of the rewards are tours offered at a specific time and place. The Society is not responsible for any backer’s travel or other costs to participate in such experiences. Further, if a cause beyond the Society's control requires rescheduling or cancellation of an experience, the MHS is not responsible for any additional travel or other costs a backer may incur in order to participate at the new time. The MHS cannot guarantee that experiences occurring on dates yet to be announced, or that must be rescheduled, will occur on a date that is convenient for all backers.
About the MHS
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is an invaluable resource for American history, life, and culture. Its extraordinary collections tell the story of America through millions of rare and unique documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable national treasures.
As the nation’s first historical society, the MHS strives to enhance the understanding of our nation’s past and its connection to the present, demonstrating that history is not just a series of events that happened to individuals long ago but is integral to the fabric of our daily lives. Its collections are accessible to anyone with an interest in American history. Beyond research, the MHS offers many ways for the public to enjoy its collections including thought-provoking exhibitions, publications, engaging programs, seminars, and teacher workshops.
Risks and challenges
If the funding goal is not met, the MHS is still dedicated to producing the exhibition “Fashioning the New England Family, 17th to 19th Century: Reuse, Refashion, Preserve, and Pass On.” However, if additional funding is not secured, we will not be able to produce the companion volume. As this publication is envisioned as a record of the exhibition and a lasting resource for scholars and the public alike, we would love to be able to disseminate it as widely as possible—especially since we recognize not everyone can make it to the Society to see the exhibition. Little can stop us if we have a successful Kickstarter campaign. As a publisher since 1792, the Society brings to this project 226 years of experience, one-of-a-kind expertise, and—most importantly—the talented staff to see this companion volume through.
Risks concerning rewards: As always with manufacturing a product, it’s possible to come across production delays. We are confident that with successful funding, the Society will be able to deliver our tangible and experiential rewards within the times stated for each. However, our rewards that feature live events are subject to change, given availability and circumstances outside of our control.
Should any changes be made to availability of rewards and events, the Society will communicate these to backers as soon as possible.
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