URI graduate student seeks Gilded Age yachting clothes
to anchor her research project Individuals, groups sought to loan clothing
for complete recording, analysis
KINGSTON, R.I.-September 2, 1999 -- A University of Rhode Island graduate
student wants sailing enthusiasts, yachting history buffs, and families
with connections to yachting traditions to search their attics, their basements
and even their memories for vintage yachting clothes.
Natasha Kelly, who is pursuing her master's degree in historic dress,
is seeking help from those who own yachting wear dating from 1880 to 1910,
so she can complete her thesis-Yachting Wear: Sartorial Symbol of
Conspicuous Leisure and Consumption in the Gilded Age.
She wants families, individuals and museums to show her their vintage
clothing so she can analyze how they fit with the history of the period.
"Brief descriptions and selected images of a specific type of clothing
for yachting activities appear sporadically in costume and yachting history
books," Kelly said. "These occasional references lack detail,
categorizations and interpretation, leaving a gap in the history of costume
concerning this particular form of dress."
Kelly, who hails from Swathmore, Pa. and who now lives in Charlestown,
R.I., said her study seeks to interpret the clothing as it relates
to leisure, consumption, wealth and social status and expand awareness and
understanding of the factors affecting the design, function and cultural
meaning of yachting wear by placing it in its appropriate historical, economic
and social context.
To reach Kelly, call URI's Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising
and Design at 874-4574.
At no cost to the owner, Kelly will perform fiber, date and weave analyses,
and will determine whether the piece is hand sewn or manufactured. Kelly
will also photograph the piece for the historical record.
Kelly is completing an analysis of a cotton yachting dress loaned by
Angela Fischer of Newport and Brookline, Mass. White with
blue trim, the dress was worn by Fischer's grandmother, Mrs. John Nicholas
Brown, on her honeymoon. The piece is dated 1898, and was purchased in Paris.
It bears the banners of the New York Yacht Club and Fischer's grandfather's
yacht, the Ballymena.
"There is no boning in the dress. At that time, most women's garments
had boning," Kelly said. "This shows the trend of people getting
into outdoor activities. Women would also wear these while watching the
Kelly is seeking men's clothing as well. "The light pants, and the
blue blazer remain a symbol right up to present day. But unlike today, straw
boater hats were also part of the wardrobe in the Gilded Age."
Kelly intends to talk to representatives from the Museum of Yachting
in Newport, the Preservation Society of Newport County, the Rhode Island
Historical Society and Rhode Island School of Design.
"If people have photos, paintings and diaries, I'd like to see those
as well because they are also primary resources," Kelly said.
And she needs the material relatively soon. Her thesis is due next August.
"Throughout the year I will be researching and writing," Kelly
Kelly, who obtained her bachelor's degree at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in comparative German and French literature, chose
URI for her graduate program because she said its textiles program is the
"I love this state and I would definitely stay if I could find a
Linda Welters, professor and chair of the textiles department, said this
project is particularly well-suited to the area because Newport has been
a great center of yachting. "This is an attempt to get at things in
private collections," said Welters who is also Kelly's adviser.
For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116