A Historical Fashion Exhibit Is Coming to the Concord Museum

In case you've ever wondered how suburban dwellers dressed in the 18th century.

Photos courtesy of the Concord Museum

Fashion lovers and history buffs rejoice. A new exhibit coming to the Concord Museum is combining history and fashion with a local twist. Called “Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750- 1900,” the exhibit will simulate how Concord dwellers acquired their threads in the 18th century, featuring never-before-seen pieces of historical clothing.

“Fresh Goods” is part of a statewide collaboration with Mass Fashion, a consortium of cultural institutions that have set out to explore fashion’s role in Massachusetts history. The Concord Museum’s newest exhibit offers an informative and entertaining look into the small town fashion scene of yesteryear.

Curated by Concord museum curator David Wood, along with consulting curators Jane and Richard Nylander, the exhibit will display historical pieces of clothing, like boots, vests, and jackets, as well as photographs, letters, and advertisements that showcase Concord’s 18th- and 19th-century fashion sense.

Military clothing will be on display, too, including a suit with a storied past.

“There’s a man’s suit from 1785, and that came right out of [American army officer] Jacob Brown’s family,” says Wood. The suit, he explains, was borrowed by sculptor Daniel Chester French to be used as a model for the one that hangs on the plow of the minuteman statue at the North Bridge. “So it was on double duty,” says Wood.

Concord fresh goods

1870-1880 leather boots / Photo by David Bohl

But it’s not just noble garments on display—there is also a variety of common clothes from the 1800s. That’s rare, according to Wood, considering the simpler and lower-class a piece of clothing was, the less likely it would be preserved through the years.

“Concord was a little town. The commoner things tend not to survive. They got used up until they couldn’t be worn anymore, and then ended up in scrap bin,” says Wood. “The rarest thing in that way [in the exhibit] is an 18th century men’s work shirt. There are absolutely none of them out there.”

Visitors can also enjoy an interactive digital screen that simulates a modern shopping platform. Viewers can scroll through and browse for colonial outfits as if they were shopping on Amazon.com.

“It’s a very cool component to the exhibition that’s sort of playful,” says Wood. “It’s great fun, but meanwhile there is also a great deal of information and rarely before seen images.”

“Fresh Goods” will be on view March 2 through July 8, 2018, at the Concord Museum, 200 Lexington Rd., Concord, concordmuseum.org.