Texas Tech University

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Elegance & Extravagance
High Fashion of the 19th Century

May 18 – December 22, 2024

Fashion in the 19th century played hide-and-seek with the female form using yards of fabric to conceal areas of the body not intended to be seen in public. The fashionable slim column silhouette of the 1810s evolved into large hoops during the middle of the century, and then, skirts whose fabric fullness was swept to the back and supported by bustles.

Toward the end of the century, women's garments became slimmer, which allowed for relatively more freedom of movement. Technology also influenced fashion with the timesaving invention of the sewing machine.  

The arrival of the sewing machine allowed seamstresses to create draping in the back over bustles while saving significant time. The effort and lengths women endured to corset their bodies and to withstand hoops or bustles to achieve the fashionable silhouette may seem excessive. Their efforts are arguably no less deforming than today's fashionable 4-inch spike heels.  Although delicate, these garments survive for us to study and enjoy due largely to the efforts of the Founding Curator of the Clothing and Textiles Collection Betty Mills, and the women of the West Texas Museum Association Women's Council who secured funds for some of the best examples of 19th-century fashion in this exhibit.

Upcoming Programming:

Tied to be Fit: The Victorian Obsession with Fashion Perfection
October 17, 2024 @ 6 PM

Edward Maeder, Fashion Historian and former Curator of Fashion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be presenting.