Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion

Posted September 3, 2015

September 18 - December 18

Take a peek at what lies beneath, in Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion, a new textile exhibition at the University of New Hampshire Museum.

Past exhibitions have focused on lovely gowns and surface details, but Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion, the latest effort by guest curator Astrida Schaeffer, lifts skirts and unbuttons bodices to reveal the true ‘Victoria’s secrets’ — the corsets, hoops, bustles and more, that shaped and supported the changing silhouettes of women’s clothes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

Some of the foundation garments displayed are designed to reshape the body, while some added to the body to change the profile. Early corsets and their precursors, called “stays,” were stiffened with reeds, cords, or whalebone (actually baleen) as a means of supporting the torso and bust. As technology advanced in the mid-19th century steel boning became the norm and the hourglass figure emerged as a result of steel’s shaping qualities.

According to Schaeffer:

Contrary to urban legend, that didn’t mean fainting ladies and rib removal; the exhibition makes the case that much of what we think we know about what it was like to live in a corset is a myth. In fact women lived quite active lives while corseted and could even be fairly athletic.

Where corsetry physically altered the body, hoops and bustles affected women’s shapes by building out artificially from it with cages of steel and other materials. The exhibition showcases a range of these items, as well as contemporary attitudes towards women's’ fashionably ballooning forms.

The core of the items on view comes from the Irma Bowen Textile Collection at UNH, which holds some 700 textile pieces donated to the university by Bowen. These pieces were originally gathered as teaching tools for the home economics dressmaking classes she taught at UNH from the 1920s to the 1940s.

In addition, generous loans from collections at the Brick Store Museum, John Paul Jones House, Museums of Old York, Strawbery Banke Museum, and the Wentworth Lear Historic Houses help fill out the story of how women’s clothes were shaped by their underthings.

The exhibition is sponsored by the University Museum and funded in part by the E.Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.

The University Museum, located in the Dimond Library, is open Monday through Friday, 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday noon to 8 p.m. Closed November 11, & 26 to 28.

Visit our Museum page for directions, parking information, photos, and more information on the exhibition and related programs.

Media contact: Dale Valena
University Museum, UNH

Multimedia Activism Display

Posted January 31, 2014

The UNH Library Multimedia Display Activism: Exposing Truth and Inspiring Change is a collection of movies that reveals exploitation, injustice, and corruption while inspiring and motivating viewers to stand up for the truth. Whether they are feature films or documentaries, these films address a wide range of topics including environmental issues, political struggles, class, etc. Movies such as the political thriller Syriana starring Matt Damon and George Clooney and documentary Rich Media, Poor Democracy are included in the display.

Check out these movies and more in the Multimedia Room on Level 2 of Dimond Library.

Blue Vinyl
Born Into Brothels
Bowling for Columbine
Bread and Roses
Crude Impact
Fahrenheit 9/11
Fast Food Nation
A Fierce Green Fire
Food, Inc.
In Whose Honor?
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
North Country
Oil on Ice
Rich Media, Poor Democracy
The Rosa Parks Story
Seabrook 1977
Stolen Childhoods
Thank You For Smoking

Classic New England movies on display in Multimedia Center

Posted September 4, 2013

The Multimedia Center has a great selection of films on display with story lines or shooting locations based in New England. You will find a wide array of titles including Mystic River, set in working class Boston and Good Will Hunting which was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Other films include The Departed which is set in South Boston and tells the story of the police waging a war on Irish-American organized crime and Salesman, a landmark American documentary, which tells the story in vivid detail of the daily grind of the door-to-door salesman. No matter your taste in movies you'll be sure to find something you'll enjoy in the Multimedia Center.

Visit the UNH Library Multimedia Center on the second floor of Dimond Library to borrow these and many more films.