Founding Fashion: 18th-Century Military Clothing Exhibit

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Title Image - FinalFort Ticonderoga Museum’s first clothing exhibition in over a quarter century opened in May and brings together a remarkable collection of historical military garments, accessories, and artworks.

The exhibit, entitled Founding Fashion: The Diversity of Regularity in 18th-Century Military Clothing, explores how European military fashion and global commerce influenced American martial appearance throughout the American Revolution. 

“The objects and artworks featured in this exhibit are unique and can only be seen at Fort Ticonderoga,” Chris Fox, Curator of Collections at Fort Ticonderoga, said in a notice to the press. “The key objects in the exhibit include four extremely rare and important American and British 18th-century uniforms along with three other related textile objects including an American soldier’s knapsack, a British officer’s sash, and one of the few surviving examples of a British army soldier’s blanket. Remarkably, each of these key objects in the exhibit has a provenance of use in America prior to or connected with the American Revolution.”

“The knapsack featured in the exhibit was owned by Benjamin Warner who settled in Ticonderoga after the Revolution.  The blanket was actually used at Ticonderoga in 1777,” Fox said. “Like all 18th-century garments, military or civil, a wide variety of buttons and buckles were used to keep clothing snug and secure.  Drawing from the museum’s extensive archeological clothing-related artifact collections, hundreds of buttons, buckles, fragments of cloth and metallic trims. These artifacts show the diversity of materials used in the construction of military clothing in the 18th century.”

Art selected from the museum’s collection illustrating how military clothing was worn and functioned during use is positioned throughout the exhibit.  These works provide additional dimension to the interpretation of the original garments featured in the exhibit. Much of what is known about 18th-century military clothing is documented only through paintings. By incorporating art into this presentation and making comparisons with the garments on display, visitors are able to compare the garments in the exhibit with surviving images showing how they were actually worn in the 18th century.

A video in the exhibit offers a new perspective on the construction of an 18th-century coat.  By compressing over 50 hours of work into a seven minute time lapse video visitors are able to observe the entire construction process from measuring a person to cutting of the cloth and construction of the coat to its final fitting.

“Fort Ticonderoga’s daily interpretive focus for 2014 recreates life at the Fort as it unfolded in the year 1776.  The clothing worn by the museum’s living history department this season is based in part upon research in Fort Ticonderoga’s extensive clothing collections,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “Visitors therefore have the unique opportunity to examine original garments in the Founding Fashion exhibit and then see highly accurate reproductions of some of those garments worn by staff as they present programs in and around the Fort. In addition, living history staff members are constructing clothing throughout the year enabling visitors to see clothing production taking place on a daily basis.”

Also connected to the exhibit is a new education program titled The Artificer’s Apprentice. This immersive program designed for upper elementary level students, incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), enables students to experience 18th-century trades in action. “After visiting the exhibit, students can experiment with tailoring and shoe making, two of the most important and common trades in military and civilian life,” said Hill. “They will learn about the local and global networks that supplied leather, cloth, and the other materials used by artificers. Students will draft patterns and sew cloth and leather, and be introduced to the issues associated with ordering adequate supplies and materials. This interactive program will demonstrate how knowledge of applied science was a critical part of clothing production even in the 18th century and integrate a static exhibition into a dynamic and interactive learning experience.”

The exhibit is included in a Fort Ticonderoga general admission ticket and the exhibit is located in the Deborah Clarke Mars Educational Center at Fort Ticonderoga. To learn more about this exhibit and related programs visit or call 518-585-2821.

Photo provided.

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