Fashion before ease in Suffolk

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, January 8, 2015

A program at Riddick’s Folly next Saturday will examine the various layers of dress women in antebellum Suffolk employed to maintain warmth and social standing.

Nationally known first-person interpreter Gae Ward will demonstrate how ladies of the period were attired from pantaloons out.

“She’s going to demonstrate different layers of clothing and how a woman in that particular time period would have had to have someone help her get dressed because there are too many layers,” said Robert Archer. “It’s a fun program. We did it about two years ago, and it really went over great. I think it will be a fun presentation with the history of the clothing, and she’s a fun character anyway.”

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Ward said she will focus on women in the middle and upper classes but also will talk about men’s clothing.

“It’s basically a social history, because it’s focused on one era in one area, which is Suffolk.”

The title of the program, “Fashion Before Ease,” is taken from an old colonial print that stresses the importance of fashion.

“It’s not easy to be fashionable because of the garments that you have to wear,” she said. “It isn’t comfortable, but you get used to it. Children, from the time they start walking, were wearing corsets — even young men — so they would learn to stand up straight.”

Ward said her talk will include the history of what was going on in Suffolk before and during the Civil War.

Archer said the period’s flannel, wool and quilted petticoats may be enticing to modern women after this week’s cold weather.

“Underneath those hoop skirts, you had to wear something, because it was cold,” he said.

The program will begin at 2 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Riddick’s Folly, 510 N. Main St. The cost is $12 per person, and advance registrations are required as space is limited. Refreshments will be served.

For more information on the program, call 934-0822 or email