Monday, July 30, 2012

Emily's White Dress

We had an unusual event on Mackinac recently, a marathon poetry reading of Emily Dickinson - 12 hours, 1789 poems!

It was billed as "Emily meets Mackinac Island", but I suspect in many cases, it was actually Mackinac meeting Emily.

Emily Dickinson was known for her white dresses and a replica of a dress thought to have been worn by her was on display.

The dress is a white wrapper, dating to the late 1870's. For many years, the original dress was displayed at the Dickinson Homestead site, but it was eventually decided that it should be removed from display and conserved.

As the dress was an exceedingly popular object for visitors, the decision was made to create a reproduction, actually two, so they could be rotated for display.

A pattern was created by painstaking measurement of the original dress and a muslin sewn to check the accuracy of the pattern.

Context Weavers, an English firm, reproduced the fabric by punching a custom set of cards to be used on their Jacquard loom. The embroidered insertion and edging trim was reproduced by an American company - this relatively simple dress has over 14 yards of trim!

While finding firms able to recreate the proper materials was difficult, a larger challenge was finding the funding - $10,000 for the two replicas.

Having made reproduction garments myself, I can only wonder what it must be like to work with such expensive materials - I think I'd be terrified to touch it must less cut into it!

The dress made a wonderful focal point for the final reading of the day and several young ladies added to the  ambiance by wearing their own white dresses - it was a wonderful day!

1 comment:

  1. As a lifelong Emily Dickinson fan, that's one marathon I would have loved to participate in! The dress looks so soft and lovely!