The Way We Wore…. “Defying Labels, New Roles, New Clothes,” on Display at Lyndhurst

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by Dorothy Conigliaro

Fans of Downton Abbey remember it as a first-class drama, made equally memorable for its fashion statements. On glorious display each week were the wonderful styles of the early part of the 20th century. They were exquisite and unique, a triumph of design and of impeccable dressmaking. The good news is that the designs of those times can be viewed up close and personal at the Lyndhurst Estate exhibition throughout the summer.

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Coquette Evening Gown detail, Anna Gould 1940s-1950s;

“Defying Labels, New Roles, New Clothes,” can be seen through September 25 at Lyndhurst, the 19th century Gothic Revival style mansion, formerly the home of the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. For lovers of fashion and history, the exhibit is a must see, showcasing the evolution of fashion from 1880 through 1940 through the dazzling collection of designer clothing worn by the Gould heiresses. The more than 30 ensembles, including gowns, dresses and sportswear, made from the finest fabrics of another age, came from such fashion houses as Chanel, Cartier, Worth, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Louis Vuitton.

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Delman, NY, 1940s shoe — Anna Gould;
From a historical perspective, the display also includes interesting details about the lives of the women who made Lyndhurst their home – Helen Gould, the eldest daughter, who became one of the foremost philanthropists of her time; Anna Gould, the Duchess of Tallyrand, the stylish daughter of the late financier; and Gould’s daughter-in-law, Edith Kingdon Gould, who displayed the fashion panache of the former actress she was.

A visual retrospective

After WWI, women’s lives became less restrictive and they were more readily able to assert their own distinctive tastes. Many of the dresses in the Lyndhurst collection come from Maison Burano, an American retailer who supplied apparel to mature women who wanted to remain fashionable. Key among these outfits is a suite of day dresses and hats that display the influence of such designers as Chanel, Schiaparelli, and Lanvin. Also included in the exhibition is a group of luxury goods purchased from some of the most important jewelers of the time. None of the Gould women were recognized in their time as fashion leaders. Because they were not born and raised to be prominent in gilded age society, they had a much more individualized relationship with fashion. Their distinct personalities and many roles — as seen through their wardrobes — presage a way of life and dressing that is specifically American and contemporary.

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Printed Silk Day Dress — Anna Gould, 1937-39; Black Receiving Dress worn by Helen Gould, circa 1912-14
For those unfamiliar with Lyndhurst, this exhibit is just one of the many attractions showcased here. As one of the Historic Hudson Valley sites, it offers an array of popular events, including tours of the mansion, Saturday evening jazz concerts, and Crafts at Lyndhurst in spring and fall. The site reflects nearly 175 years of life on the Hudson River contained in 67 park-like acres that include 16 structures, such as a Lord & Burnham steel-framed greenhouse complex and the oldest regulation bowling alley in the United States. Lyndhurst’s magnificent grounds feature an award-winning rose garden, a fern and rock garden, specimen trees, and the now-aged but still magnificent linden trees for which the property was named.

What: Defying Labels, New Roles, New Clothes
Where: Lyndhurst Estate, 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY

Dates: June 17 through September 25
Tickets: Admission to the exhibit is

$10. For $16 (for adults) and $12 (for children) visitors can also tour this National Trust for Historic Preservation home. The exhibit is included in the price of the tour, and additional costumes will be on display on the house tour.

For more information: visit: www.lyndhurst.org.

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