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"What Women Wore," a new exhibit on American women's fashion to open at APSU

Fashion has always been one of the ways a society leaves its mark on history. From fabric and colors emphasizing social standing to design that highlighted society’s ideals of sexuality, a great deal of knowledge can be gained by studying the fashion of the time.

Fashion has always been one of the ways a society leaves its mark on history. From fabric and colors emphasizing social standing to design that highlighted society’s ideals of sexuality, a great deal of knowledge can be gained by studying the fashion of the time.

“Our goal (at Austin Peay State University) is to inspire our incoming freshman students and show them that history can be interesting and relevant,” APSU adjunct professor Deanna Carter said. “And after discovering a collection of period women’s clothing, we all decided that the pieces were a fantastic way to teach students about the social status and experiences of American women.”

Beginning Aug. 17 and extending through the end of the fall semester, a new exhibit is taking over the Mabel Larson Gallery inside Harnad Hall on the campus of APSU. Curated by Carter and a group of APSU students and graduates, “What Women Wore” is a collection of American women’s fashion from the period between the 1820s and 1930s.

A reception, open to the public, will be held in the Gallery on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 5 p.m. to meet with the curatorial team and those who supported their efforts. Light refreshments will be offered.

Carter co-curated the collection of original and replica women's clothing and accessories along with APSU graduate students Alexandria Poppendorf and Larissa Dougherty, as well as recent APSU graduate Courtney Beard.

“This time frame in particular is quite significant in terms of women’s history, because it covers the (early years of the) transition of feminity in America,” Carter said.

The collection of over 20 pieces spans a transitional period in American history, stretching from the reserved Pre-Victorian era through a more liberal early modern period during the 1930s.

Carter and Poppendorf, as well as Beard and Dougherty, used original photographs and other reference material from each era when creating the exhibit. Nearly every piece on display, Carter says, is authentic and of its time period. The few replica pieces in the exhibit have been carefully created using materials that would have been used at that time.

“This was really exciting for me as a student, because I want to work with museums as a career,” Poppendorf, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Military History degree, said. “Being able to help with this project was a great learning opportunity.”

For more information on the exhibit, contact the APSU Department of History and Philosophy at 931-221-7919, or Deanna Carter at carterd@apsu.edu.