If you are a lover of early American Folk Art, you will have most certainly seen at least one mid 19th c painted portrait from the likes of Ammi Phillips, Joseph Whiting Stock, Joseph Davis, or William Matthew Prior, just to name a few. Children were portrayed in the most fabulous and sometimes somewhat gaudy attire that one could ask, did they 'really' look like that? The answer, most definitely, is yes! Earlier this year the Museum acquired a small collection of little boys clothing from his family descendants~ all mid century, and most wonderfully, accompanied by an original salt print portrait of the owner~ little Van Cleef Hoagland of Centerville NJ. Van Cleef was born Jan 27, 1855, and died Nov. 8, 1859, not long after this photo was taken. As you can see, he is an utterly charming boy, dressed in the ever popular belted tunic of the time.
Above is the little printed velvet tunic he wore in the photo. Does it look like the same top to you? Matching extant clothing with the same in a period photograph can be extremely difficult, especially with ambrotype and daguerreotype images that are reverse view of the actual image(mirror images), as well as negative representations of a positive image. Being a privately owned Museum without large acquisition funds or grants available to me, I have become somewhat of an expert in picking out little gems that lay crumpled up in a corner somewhere. In the study of early children's clothing, because there are so few examples of 'color' circulating for view, one tends to rely heavily on photograph images for research, and in doing so, can become numb to the vibrant colors that the clothing actually had at one time~ so it is really a treat to have a piece together with it's original period photograph. Many times these little tunics are mislabeled as a girls dress~ in flat cut they are quite similar to the cut of a later paletot.
Van Cleef's tunic still retains all the fancy waistcoat buttons down the front~ I can say that all of my early printed velvet children's clothing have wonderful fancy swirl glass or waistcoat type buttons~ they pair fabulously with the posh richness of the cotton velvets. The bottom three buttons have been removed from Van Cleef's tunic to reduce bulk and wear to his belt
The inside is lined in plain linen, and here, you can see the pile stops just short of the salvedge edge of the velvet~ about a quarter inch.
This also belonged to Van Cleef~ a print velvet bodice. Printed in a wonderful nut brown with little boteh or paisley designs~ this one most likely resist printed. Short sleeves, box pleated front with front button closure of cut black glass buttons. He must have worn this one alot, as the pile is worn completely down to the base fabric at the underarm areas
Looking closely at the waistband, we can appreciate the look of the material when it was new, as it remains lush and unfaded where it was protected behind the button on waistband of the trousers.
The Lady's Repository Museum is a privately owned museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of unique early American fashions of both women and children, the later being a specialty.
All proceeds from Diamond K Folk Art sales (antique reproduction Folk Art, Dolls & hooked rugs) directly support the Museum, of which can be found on ETSY, eBay and the DKFA Blog~ please see the links on the sidebar. You can also mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org