A large group of women enjoyed high tea in the stunningly decorated exhibition room at the Porterville Museum on Saturday.
Brilliant white tablecloths, colorful vintage teapots and a large selection of colorful antique teacups and saucers with lovely flower arrangements made an invitingly festive occasion even more special.
As well as tea, there were a variety of crustless sandwiches, biscuits, pastries, chocolate and vanilla piroulines and other tempting sweets on tiered trays.
Along with the high tea was a drawing of various items, from floral arrangements, a drawing by a well-known artist, glassware and more.
Frankie Feldman, who restored the fabulous collection of women’s clothing from the 1890s to the 1950s, spoke in front of the drawing. She spoke about the various vintage outfits that have been donated to the museum, the delicacy of the fabrics, the incredible detail and sewing on the mostly handmade garments, and the sizing of the dresses.
At the beginning of the show, Porterville Historical Museum curator Susan Uptain encouraged the assembled women to keep drinking tea and eating as she introduced Feldman, who was curating the fashion show.
Thanking the museum’s volunteers, she said, “A big thank you to Liz Faure for selling our lots.”
Feldman, who repaired and restored many of the vintage dresses on display, first spoke about the size of the dresses. The woman wearing the 1890s dress had a waist of about 22 inches and was wearing a corset and underwear.
Feldman had made a corset out of corsets and laced it up the back for her to show everyone. It had additional ties on the sides to pinch at the waist to create an hourglass figure.
The clothing was so small that Uptain had to order mannequins from Asia because the clothing could not be displayed on regular mannequins in US stores. Feldman also said that women wore giant hats in the 1890s.
There was a beautiful 1910s long blue wool dress and overtunic with stunning detailing and lace-up shoes, a brown riding dress with heavy layers of fabric and a 1910s silk blouse.
After World War I the fashion changed, in 1920 women got the right to vote and hemlines went up, showing a 1920s blue silk velvet dress with cream silk blouse and blue silk vest or overgarment.
Many of the outfits were of velvet or silk, which were expensive fabrics at any time, with wonderful bonnet hats often worn sideways. In the 20’s to 30’s women cut their hair short, often in curls or in a bob, sometimes in a boyish style. They also started painting their faces and the waists went down again.
Women even tied their breasts together to make their figures appear long and slender. It became fashionable to smoke and drink, and so shoes with straps became popular.
Feldman showed the assembled women a few pictures from the 1920s and talked about women who sometimes “cross-dressed” or wore long flowing dresses over pants in the 1920s.
She talked about flapper dresses with long fringes and often embroidered, but said they didn’t have any in the collection.
There was a multi-colored silk dress with a pointed hem that was beaded at the back. It was worn with long necklaces and heeled, strapped or flat shoes.
Another dress made of feather-light white linen looked almost like a wedding dress or sundress.
Hats and gloves became popular again in the 1930s, and the museum has a nice little collection of hats.
On display is a 1940s US Navy WWII WAVES women’s blue wool uniform. Feldman explained that during World War II all kinds of fabrics were rationed, so the designers or couturiers came up with the Navy suit worn by a local woman.
There was also a 1950s cocktail dress made of diamond-patterned silk in shades of cream, blue and lavender with a large, flared skirt. It would be worn with a crinoline or a layer of a tulle petticoat. Feldman said it was worn with pumps or open-toe sandals with gloves. She said these types of dresses were typically worn by teenagers in the ’50s.
During the tea party and runway show, Feldman wore a black and white cotton flared dress that belonged to her mother with a 1950s or early 1960s white cotton cardigan.
Everyone thanked Feldman for her fabulous presentation. It was so interesting that many did not want the fashion show to end.
“The museum events this year are great. The tea offered all of my favorite things: good conversation, good food and an excellent program on vintage clothing,” said Shirley Hickman.
Her friend Joyce Freeman said, “That was just lovely. I was at the last one.”
Hickman mentioned that their husbands were part of the group that put the trains on display for the first time at the museum at Christmas time.
“This was beautifully done and delightful. They went to great lengths to organize the show and the tea,” said Margaret Stinson appreciatively.
Karen Stover said the tea was wonderful and delicious and she found the presentation informative. “The decorations were beautiful and the table setting was fantastic. Beautiful English porcelain and vintage teapots.”
Kim Baumgardner said it was the perfect tea party with treats and decorations. And the vintage fashion was fascinating, she said.
And the company was great, said Teresa Harbin.
Brigette Bonnet, Frankie Feldman’s niece, spoke about how much her grandmother loved to sew and make Halloween costumes. They all sewed, and their daughter is pursuing a Masters in Costume Engineering from San Diego State University.
Everyone had a wonderful time and everyone suggested people to go to the museum to see the fabulous women’s collection of women’s costumes.