FASHION AND FRILLS: Historic exhibit depicts local style of early 1900s – The Daily Reporter

Three historic dresses are the featured exhibit called “Lawn & Lace” at the Hancock County Historical Society. This fall marks the final weeks to view the exhibit, which will be removed in mid-October to make way for a new exhibit next year.

Maribeth Vaughn | [email protected]

GREENFIELD – This fall marks the final weeks to see a display of historic dresses made by Hancock County women in the first decades of the 20th century.

“Lawn & Lace” tells the story of a new century introducing women to a changing world, says Michael Kester, president and curator of the Hancock County Historical Society.

The featured exhibit has been on display for about two years, and will be taken down mid-October to make way for a new exhibit next year. It’s located in the basement museum of the Chapel in the Park, open weekends in Riley Park.

The textile exhibit features fine cotton called lawn, which includes machine-made laces. Hancock County women in the early 1900s saw the trend in fashion magazines and would make their own, Kester said, by buying lawn and lace at the Spot Cash Store in downtown Greenfield.

One dress was made in 1905 for Irene Huntington Hill’s eighth-grade graduation. Two other local dresses were identified as fitting in the time era, and local photographs show dozens of women wearing the fashion.

One large photograph depicts a 1905 photo of hundreds of people gathering at the courthouse plaza for a religious street fair, complete with circus elephants. Another picture shows a Fortville thimble club donning their handmade dresses.

The long summer-weight dresses were machine-stitched and hand-sewn at home from fine cotton fabrics and machine laces. Dainty and delicate by design, they were made for special occasions such as high-school graduations.

“It was a fashion because when you see other women wearing it, you want it,” he said.

The exhibit depicts women in a changing world, Kester added. Some were beginning to take up jobs left vacant from men who did not return from the Civil War. Teens of the era would become typists and learn to drive; they were the wives and mothers who would see World War I begin and battle the 1918 influenza at home. The exhibit offers glimpses of their view of Greenfield’s Main Street and their vision of high fashion in women’s magazines of the era.

Kester has been curator for six years at the society, and this marks his third featured exhibit. He enjoys finding pieces in the museum’s displays and archives and placing them together, making a cohesive display. He said Bethann Waltz was the volunteer fabric conservator for the exhibit and taught him a lot about the historic fashions and fabrics at the time.

Other featured exhibits in recent years have included a display on diphtheria, as well as historic hotels of the county. Next up is a sports/high school-themed exhibit.

Those who still want to check out Lawn & Lace should come by the Chapel in the Park Museum and the Old Log Jail Museum, open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Group tours are also available by appointment via 317-462-7780. For more, visit; a video about putting together the exhibit can be viewed by clicking on the YouTube link on the website.

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