Sneak Peek: 'Thread' at Portsmouth's Strawbery Banke

The seacoast museum presents fashions old and new through Oct. 31.

Strawbery Banke’s fashion-forward new exhibit “Thread: The Story of New England Fashion” opens tomorrow. Not only are garments and accessories — worn by residents of Portsmouth’s Puddle Dock neighborhood over the past 400 years on display — but curators also asked big-deal designers such as Philip Treacy, Project Runway’s Rodney Epperson and Austin Scarlett, and locals Carter Smith and Emily Muller to create contemporary pieces inspired by the collection.

The show is spread across Strawbery Banke’s historic properties, and we stopped by this morning for a sneak peek before it opens to the public (Mitt Romney was also in town — but not to browse evening dresses. Flanked by Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, the presidential hopeful talked about small businesses at the nearby fishing pier).

Feast your eyes:

Above: At the Chase House, there’s a silk moiré wedding gown circa 1844 on display (left). Local designer Carter Smith took photos of pieces in the collection and then digitally manipulated the shots and printed the resulting images on silk to create his vivid confection (right).

Above: This frock from Boston designer Emily Muller — exhibited in the Rider-Wood House — was inspired by a peach-colored dress with puffed sleeves from the 1840s.

Above: The contemporary shoes in the foreground were designed by London’s Emma Hope — they are modern takes on a brocaded shoe, circa 1740.

Above: Runway alum Austin Scarlett fashioned the gown on the right after the brocaded silk satin wedding dress worn by Mabel Storer Decatur (left). An excerpt from Scarlett’s artist statement: “The combination of the severe propriety, controlled ladylikeness, and very sensual, lush, luxurious femininity of Victorian era gowns has always fascinated me as a designer.”

Above: A hat crafted by New York designer Barbara Volker (left), alongside a neoclassical waistcoat, circa 1800, worn by Gen. Jacob Morgan (right).