Brad Nettles // The Post and Courier
Tamera Moore (left) tries on mid-19th-century reproduction clothing at the Charleston Museum as her friend, Lauren Wills (center), waits her turn.
A couple of weeks ago, my mom was in town visiting.
She's been to Charleston many times before, but she came with a list of things she wanted to do, including, but not limited to, Summerville's Flowertown Festival, art walk, the beach, day trips, Bridge Run, birding and The Festival of Houses and Gardens.
When she left 10 days later, I was wiped out. Who knew a 65-year-old woman could be so exhausting?
Of the many things we did during her visit, our trip to the Charleston Museum on a rainy afternoon to see the "Threads of War" exhibit was a highlight.
The museum's permanent collection includes an in-depth look at Charleston's past from pre-Colonial times all the way through the mid-20th century.
There's also an eclectic collection from some 19th-century explorers/naturalists, including an Egyptian mummy and the skeleton of a whale who had the extremely bad fortune of ending up in Charleston Harbor.
"Threads of War" is a year-long exhibit commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and features an array of period pieces worn by men, women and children in 1860s Charleston.
It's a fascinating look at fashion before zippers were invented and when everything was made by hand. The exhibit also shows how living in a time of war had a profound effect on everyday life, from the type of materials available for making garments to the struggle to find many household goods.
For example, a hand-made palmetto straw hat shows the resourcefulness of having to work with local materials as does a fan made of turkey feathers, because there was, of course, a blockade in Charleston during the war allowing very little into the city.
The silhouette on the dresses should be familiar to anyone who's ever watched the miniseries "North and South." A defined waist was due to the use of a corset, and full skirts got their shape from a wide hoop crinoline worn underneath.
Military styling also influenced the fashion of the time as a Zouave-style collar on a jacket demonstrates.
A stand-out piece in the exhibit is a beautiful christening gown with the most gorgeous hand-embroidered detail.
There are uniforms, including one that was worn by a soldier who was fatally wounded. Looking closely, you can see the bullet hole, and it's a stark reminder of how much was sacrificed during the Civil War.
At the end of the exhibit is an interactive part where you can put on period costumes to see what it was like to dress in the 1860s.
"Threads of War" continues until late October. The Charleston Museum is at 360 Meeting Street.
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