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'The Perils of the Petticoat'

Lynne Bury, owner of the Zimmerman-Bury Octagon House in Marshallville, will present a talk on “The Perils of the Petticoat” at the Ken Miller Museum in Shreve.


Lynne Bury, owner of the Zimmerman-Bury Octagon House in Marshallville, will present a talk on “The Perils of the Petticoat” at the Ken Miller Museum in Shreve on April 21 at 1 p.m. The event is hosted by the County Line Historical Society of Wayne/Holmes.
Bury said the presentation is an “overview of mid-19th-century fashions, which debunks the myths surrounding such items as hoop skirts and corsets.”
In the presentation some antique clothing items will be shared as well as a PowerPoint presentation. Bury will dress in period clothing.
Bury is the proprietor of a website called The Octagon – A Ladies Repository along with her daughter Elizabeth Rock.
“A repository is a resting place for or a keeping place for something important enough to be preserved,” Bury said. “We strive to preserve many aspects of a mid-19th-century woman’s life, which would express her styles, occupations and daily activities."
Bury said she has been researching this subject for 45 years.
“Probably my most fascinating work in this area was when I worked at the Kent State University School of Fashion Design,” Bury said.
While there she had vast numbers of clothing articles to study.
"The mid-19th century was a very involved period with so much depending on class," Bury said. “The way a woman dressed was an indication of her socio-economic status."
The title of the presentation, "The Perils of the Petticoat," comes from the fact that “it truly was dangerous to be in fashion,” Bury said.
She explained that during that period more women died from fire than at any other time. “Imagine trying to cook with all those hoop skirts and decorations,” she said.
Bury also said the skirts were a danger when women rode in carriages and their long skirts got caught in the wheels.
In 1856 hoops skirts and “the cage” were popular. “Women struggled to make the skirts ever wider, using petticoats with many ruffles, padding with crinoline (horse hair) and sometimes inserting whale bone from the top,” Bury said.
Additional fancy petticoats were worn on top, often weighing from 25-30 pounds. “Could you imagine how hard that would be to walk around in?” Bury said.
Silk gowns were more expensive, and they could be woven with cotton or other fabrics. “Bonnets the women wore were generally either silk or straw,” Bury said.
Bury said scenes like in the film “Titanic” where the woman is having her corset strenuously laced by her mother is inaccurate of the clothing worn at that period and just another myth.
“Hollywood has over the years really done a disservice to women’s clothing history,” Bury said. “It wasn’t so much the tightness of the garments as the weight."
Bury gives a number of historical presentations in addition to "The Perils of the Petticoat" including “How Women Served in the Civil War,” a look at the unsung heroes of the great conflict both in battle and on the home front; “Tea Time,” which examines the development of the custom of afternoon tea from its Victorian roots to the present; “Life with Eight Sides,” a slide show of the 19th-century fad for octagonal structures and life within one; and “Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic,” which examines the history of the oldest American Women’s Heritage organization, their accomplishments and their goals. Donations are gladly accepted to benefit this charitable organization.
The Ken Miller Museum is located at 7920 OH-226, Shreve. The event is free and open to the public.

Published: April 13, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180419983