Fashioning Eliza: Gown-Making in 1777 and 1787

Fashioning Eliza: Gown-Making in 1777 and 1787 

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, 1777-1787.

In ongoing gallery education and public programs for Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia, visitors to the Museum of the American Revolution will learn how women’s fashion changed in the tumultuous period from the Revolutionary War to the early Republic. Compare the gown Eliza might have worn when she first met the Washington’s dashing aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton in 1777 with the gown captured in her 1787 portrait by Ralph Earl.

In conversation with I, Eliza Hamilton (Kensington, 2017) author and co-founder of the blog Two Nerdy History Girls, Susan Holloway Scott, follow the process to make two gowns online from start to finish throughout the “Year of Hamilton” programming at the Museum.

Follow this project online and on our Instagram.

The Gowns

1787 Cream-colored silk gown.

Recreated 1787 cream-colored silk gown with pink sash, fashioned after Ralph Earl’s 1787 portrait, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (Mrs. Alexander Hamilton), 1787, Ralph Earl (1751-1801)

Visit Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia on Saturdays at 12: 00 pm to meet a costumed educator wearing a recreated gown as if it had been pulled right from Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s closet in 1787.  This gown was featured in her 1787 portrait by Ralph Earl.


1777 Blue silk gown.

Inspired by Paul Tazewell’s Tony-nominated costume design for Hamilton (2015) and original research by Museum staff, Samantha McCarty and Susan Holloway Scott.  

Visit and see Samantha McCarty work in person on Saturday and Sunday, December 29th-30th, as she fits the 1777 gown to a Museum educator. See the finished gown step out for the first time at History After Hours: A Winter’s Ball on January 22.

Special Events and Programs

Gown Making Demonstration Fashioning Eliza: 1777

Saturday, December 29 and Sunday, December 30 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Meet seamstress Samantha McCarty as she creates a gown like the one Eliza Schuyler would have worn when she first met her dashing young military suitor in 1777. Inspired by Paul Tazewell’s costume design for Hamilton: An American Musical, McCarty will use 18th-century techniques to show us what changing women’s fashions reveal about politics.

History After Hours: A Winter’s Ball

Tuesday, January 22 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm

Take a costume challenge to upstage Elizabeth Schuyler’s big night out! See if your feet are fancy in 18th-century dances and make a lasting first impression from across the room in Hamilton Was Here.

Fashioning Eliza: Hamilton and Philadelphia Style, 1777-1787

Thursday, March 14 from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Susan Holloway Scott; Samantha McCarty; Tyler Putman

What was in Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s closet? Join us for an evening fashion presentation and panel conversation featuring the designer and seamstress Samantha McCarty, I, Eliza Hamilton author Susan Holloway Scott and Museum Education staff. Compare a gown that Elizabeth Schuyler, a native New Yorker, might have worn to meet the young officer Alexander Hamilton during his military leave in winter 1777 with how she restyled herself as Mrs. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in the new United States capital, Philadelphia, in 1787. Guest are invited to arrive early to explore the Hamilton Was Here exhibit. Following the presentation, pose for your own portrait with similar fashions and meet author Susan Holloway Scott for a book signing featuring I, Eliza Hamilton outside the Museum store. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the event page

Project Contributors:

Samantha McCarty, Couture Courtesan 
Samantha McCarty is currently the tailor for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, where she researches, designs, and constructs garments from the early 17th and late 18th centuries. In 2012, she served a ten week internship with the Margaret Hunter millinery shop learning the arts and mysteries of mantua-making and millinery at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. She was part of the First Oval Office Project which reproduced by hand the marquis tents of George Washington for the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, PA. Her interests include studying mourning clothing of the mid-19th century.
Susan Holloway Scott, Two Nerdy History Girls Blog and I, Eliza author
Susan Holloway Scott is the author of over fifty historical novels and novellas. Her bestselling books have received numerous awards and honors, and with more than three million copies in print, she has been published in nineteen foreign countries around the world. She also writes as half of the popular history blog Two Nerdy History Girls ( A graduate of Brown University, her most recent novel is I, ELIZA HAMILTON. For more information about Susan and her books, please visit her website:

Amber Mendenhall Welch, Virgil’s Hats and Fine Goods

Amber Mendenhall Welch is a clothing historian and historical seamstress from Mount Vernon, Ohio. She has a B.S.S. in American History and Historical Costume Construction from Ohio University and interned at the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop in Colonial Williamsburg. She now owns her own historical clothing business, Virgil's Fine Goods, creating historically accurate accessories for living historians and costume enthusiasts. Her specialties include handsewing 18th-century finery, historical hairstyling and millinery/hatmaking.  You can follow her at her blog: Lady of the Wilderness or on Instagram @ladyofthewilderness or @virgilsfinegoods  
Museum of the American Revolution Staff: Tyler Putman, Manager of Gallery Education; Hannah Boettcher, Public Programs Coordinator; Education Department

Costumes made possible by a generous gift from David and Kim Adler.