Gown Making in the 18th Century

Fashioning Eliza in 1787: A White Silk Dress for a Special Portrait

DECEMBER 1, 2018

by Susan Holloway Scott, Guest Contributor to Fashioning Eliza and author of I, ELIZA HAMILTON (Kensington Books)

Sitting for a portrait was serious business in 18th-century America. Professional artists were few and portraits were expensive, a luxury for only the wealthiest or most prominent of people. Even for them, a portrait was often a once-in-a-lifetime event.

When Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton sat for her portrait in the winter of 1787, she was thirty years old. From a socially prominent New York family, Eliza was the wife of Colonel Alexander Hamilton, an up-and-coming young lawyer and Revolutionary War hero who was already playing an important role in shaping the new country’s government. Alexander himself had already sat for several portraits, and now it was Eliza’s turn.

Fast Fashion: Top Four Accessory Trends of Fall 1787

NOVEMBER 17, 2018

How did Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton add a little something extra to her outfits while she lived in Philadelphia, and what accessories go with “Fashioning Eliza: 1787”? This month, we ask Amber Mendenhall Welch about her contribution to styling Eliza within her larger historical costuming work and inspiration. Visitors to Hamilton Was Here are invited to try on similar fashions from the early 1790s and learn how women like Eliza Hamilton would have presented themselves to meet First Lady Martha Washington at the President’s House in Philadelphia.

Fashioning Eliza: Gown-Making in 1777 and 1787

NOVEMBER 2, 2018

What does women’s fashion tell us about politics? Throughout the “Year of Hamilton” and inspired by paintings, historical research and Paul Tazewell’s costume design for Hamilton: An American Musical, seamstress Samantha McCarty will use 18th-century techniques to create two historically accurate gowns as if they had been pulled right from Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s closet.

In ongoing gallery education and public programs for Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia, visitors to the Museum will learn how women’s fashion changed in the tumultuous period from the Revolutionary War to the early Republic.