While visiting Charleston South Carolina, I spent a few hours in the Charleston Museum. It’s mission is to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of Charleston and the surrounding low country. Although it was all interesting and well curated, I was particularly drawn to three exhibits: Crazy Quilts, Wedding Dresses and Ornamental Ironwork. Keeping in mind that flash photography was forbidden, here’s a bit of my meanderings through the very quiet displays.
The Crazy Quilts were a swirl of jewel toned fabrics…scraps of velvet, taffeta and lace. The embroidery in some was exquisite…so fine that it’s easy to assume it was done by machine. One was of silk cigar inserts…images of lovely ladies. Have you seen this great website with more on crazy quilts? This museum exhibit changes as community members bring in family treasures. It’s clear that these bed and lap covers are treated as valuables because their condition is mint…as though there were no humidity and light problems in our deep south.
The wedding dresses were as wonderful as you’d expect in a society that continued hosting balls and galas even as the cannons were firing across the bay during the Civil war.
Elegance is the by-word of Aisle Style. I was particularly impressed with the array of styles that were worn by just two generations of women. It was interesting to read that although white was the fashionable color after Queen Victoria’s wedding, rich colors were the norm before then…one of the reasons that we see a predominance of white gowns in our museum collections is that those were the ones that were preserved in trunks and attics because they were too fragile for everyday wear. The colored wedding gowns, often in rich velvets and sensuous silks were worn during by women long after the special day because the dirt that was part of everyday life could be washed from these darker colors…hmmmm…
Here are a few of the dozens of photos I took, but you’ll find more pleasure buy watching the slideshow produced by the Museum. The only thing missing from the slideshow and the actual exhibit is the music that must have accomanied the event…it would have been wonderful to hear the violins and harps followed by the dance tunes that must have rung through the night.
Finally, I know that metal work doesn’t fit the exact mission of Fiber College but ornamentation certainly crosses the boundaries of art so it seems fair to share these last images. More over, consider these pieces in light of the lace you just saw on the wedding dresses…is it so very different?
All of the South is still dripping in wonderful wrought iron balconies, gates and window coverings. There is a renewed interest in preserving the shaping of hot iron and it’s good to see that apprenticeships are being offered while masters are still able to teach in front of the forges.