Visit the Charleston Museum

By:Amy Holtcamp


There’s something about seeing historical garments that brings the past to life like nothing else. It makes those silent faces hanging on the walls of a museum with their high, powdered wigs or unbelievable facial hair seem less distant, more like us. After all, they got dressed in the morning just like we do. They wore that dress, that vest, that coat, just like we’re wearing our leggings, mini skirts and puffer coats now.

That’s why the new Historic Textiles Gallery ​at the Charleston Museum is so exciting. This new exhibit space will be dedicated to the museum’s extensive collection of period textiles and clothing.

Coat Check is a perfect exhibit for winter. The exhibit displays historic outerwear worn in Charle​ston over the past 200 years. Fur coats might not be politically correct now, but they were certainly fashionable when Charleston author Josephine Pickney wore the one in display. Wool capes are costume pieces today, but were de rigueur fashion accessories in the early 20th century. Coat Check lets the visitor peak inside the wardrobe of Charleston’s fashionable past.

Today, women look to celebrities, magazines like Vogue, or Project Runway for fashion inspiration, but in the 1700-1800s, fashionistas looked to “fashion plates,” illustrations published in French magazines for guidance on creating their “look.” Fashion Plates: Illustrating History's Latest Styles, 1760s-1920s pairs historical garments and accessories with the antique drawings that inspired them.

Finally, the gallery leaps forward to our more recent history with “We Have Just Begun to Fight!”: Textiles from World War II. This is exhibit, timed to correspond with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War II, commemorates the sacrifices Americans made during the war, both on the battlefield and on the homefront, by exhibiting items like Jimmy Holcombe’s Army Air Corps flight jacket and Mary Elinor Waterhouse Hoyler’s Red Cross uniform.

Coat Check runs through March 4, Fashion Plates runs through May 6, and“We Have Just Begun to Fight!” runs through Feb 5.

The Charles​ton Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

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