Colonial Williamsburg e-museum and 18th century fashion GOLD MINE.

Hello folks,

As a result from a discussion regarding pockets on the Historical Sewing Forum I went to Colonial Williamsburg Website in a, what I expected to be, a vain attempt at finding pictures of the pockets that are in the Costume and Textile collection that is curated by Linda Baumgarten (who I was fortunate enough to intern for summer 2007 and is all around awesome). My biggest complaint with the CW website never had their collections available online for us to use. It was incredibly difficult finding images to use for research etc, that I knew CW had in their collection, but I no longer have access to the images (due to that computer crashing and burning 1 week before the end of my final semester at Indiana University).

Today, I was finally given a gift. The gift of the Colonial Williamsburg E-Museum! It is wonderful, though the search function is not quite up to my expectations, but no search function ever is. Here is the brilliance of the Colonial Williamsburg E-Museum: It's mostly 18th century with a few 19th century pieces. So for those of you who preference 18th century and are constantly bogged down by ugly 1830s dresses or modern crap on other museum websites (sorry but I have a strong distaste for the 1830s.) CW has given us a gift. Plus! PLUS PLUS PLUS: Basically all of the images found in books are found here, but they also have posted pictures of pieces that have not been gracing publications. Here are some examples:

Black Satin Gown with Embroidery. 1770s. Shown: 1991-474,A; 1991-474,B and 1991-474,C. Image and Gown Property of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Here is the link to the actual garment page.

And this is one of my all time favorite pieces ever.

Silk Waistcoat, 1790, French, Acc. No. 1990-13. Image and Garment Property of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Click here for the link to the garment page.

Talk about a power suit, eh? They actually embroidered bloody wounds on the cheetahs. I love it.

They have also posted images of the materninty wear that was featured in the most recent book, What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America : The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. Which can be purchased here.

I'm currently feeling like I've done something seriously wrong by posting the images from the website (even with full citations) so I'm going to stop with the images. You'll have to find them for yourself. And please, if you are posting museum images..try to cite them as best you can. It is difficult, especially if you find them from secondary sources, (aka searching things through google images). Hopefully this post wont upset anyone as I am not gaining anything financially from this blog or post and I'm only trying to share the Colonial Williamsburg Love.


To collaborate with the images of the costumes, they have posted a ton of portraits in their collection. Some of them are good, and some of them are the damn disturbing folk art portraits that scare the crap out of me at the Abby Alrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. 

I will not post any of these as they are frightening and disturb me greatly.

Enjoy everyone!!



  1. So I *had* to do a collection search for "portraits", and, yeah, I see what you mean! LOL! I wouldn't want to be alone in a dimly lit room with some of these portraits watching me... Their eyes following me everywhere...

    But what a lovely recourse for costumes! I too have been disappointed with the lack of digital museum objects on the Williamsburg site so this was a very pleasant surprise. I thank you kindly for pointing me to it.

  2. I've been to CW three times now, the last I was able to wear my 1770s gown and ride in a carriage with my friend who works there. We also visited the Costume Design Center, where I was in heaven.
    I'm glad you found this link and shared it. I'm going to do a little research there myself.

  3. Madame Berg: Yeah Folk art portraits of the American type are just damn creepy. I hate them. They scare me. I've been in the museum when there really hasn't been anyone around...I prefer not to think about it. :) But yes, it's so great that they are finally up to date with posting their collection online...the pieces in the collection are just outstanding...:)

    Val: The summer I spent working at CW will continue to be my favorite summer and memory until I am able to return to CW in a paid day..when..I'm not sure...but one day! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and if you do research with Linda Baumgarten (Curator of Costumes and Textiles) enjoy yourself...she's lovely and so is Kim who is the Asst Curator. :)

  4. I followed this link back here because I just got back from the Costume Accessories Symposium in W'burg, and got to see the Head to Toe costume accessories exhibit that Linda put on. She lectured more extensively on it during the symposium, and I took the Behind the Scenes tour afterwards. I loved how they displayed everything so much, I talked to Linda about my donating an 1830s pelerine (I know you hate that year) I have to the museum. Our local museum in San Diego doesn't display things that far back, and right now everything is just in storage and not photographed. Damn shame!
    I've written up the 18th c muff making workshop I took there on my blog, and hope to have more on the conference there later.


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