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January 7, 2011

Fashion Accessories — The Key to Turning Heads For 240 Years

A new exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum features apparel that turned heads for 240 years and demonstrates that fashion accessories were just as important in the distant past as they are today.

“Fashion Accessories from Head to Toe: 1600 to 1840” takes wardrobe items out of the closet and illustrates their roles in reflecting the latest fashion trends for men and women. More than 200 fashion accessories are displayed — from hats to shoes and everything in between: stockings, handkerchiefs, shawls, gloves, purses, aprons, jewelry and watches.

“Men were just as fashion-conscious as women,” said Linda Baumgarten, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of textiles and costumes, who curated the exhibition. “A well-dressed man needed more than a suit in fashionable society. From wigs to hats to buckled shoes, gentlemen’s accessories could be practical, stylish or both. Pastel colors and glittery stones were considered manly and entirely appropriate for dressy occasions.”

Many of the objects in the exhibition are new to Colonial Williamsburg’s collections, while still others have not been on view for 20 years.

“Fashion Accessories from Head to Toe: 1600 to 1840” opens Saturday, Jan. 29 in the Textile Gallery of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and will remain on view through August 2012.

Funding for the exhibition is provided by Mary Turner Gilliland and Clinton R. Gilliland of Menlo Park, Calif., through the Turner-Gilliland Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation of Mountain View, Calif.

An interactive online exhibit, “Historic Threads,” complementing the museum exhibition, debuts Monday, Jan. 17 at

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281