When Women Wore Whales

The beguiling ensemble of an elegant 19th-century lady—her billowing hooped skirts, shapely corset, and coquettish parasol—were  all made possible thanks to whalebone, or what we know of today as baleen. Used by whales to filter their food from the water, in the 18th and 19th centuries baleen was the "plastic" of its day. Light, strong, and flexible, it could be worked into any number of shapes and sizes, including hoops for skirts, ribs and shafts for parasols, and the “boning” that gave corsets their shape. Through this display of 19th-century photographs, fashion magazine plates, whaling tools, corsets, parasols, and exquisite dresses showing the changes in fashion from 1820 to 1920, When Woman Wore Whales will explore the fascinating, surprising, and vital role the American whaling industry played in the world of 19th-century fashion.  Exhibit curated by Richard P. Doctorow.

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