Fashion and Furniture at the Williamsburg Forum

Editorial Staff Furniture & Decorative Arts

The Antiques Forum at Colonial Williamsburg, now in its sixty-first year and always eagerly anticipated by collectors, curators, and scholars alike, was held at the Williamsburg Lodge from January 31 to February 6. Some 395 people gathered to hear lectures, attend tours, and network with friends and colleagues over various receptions and dinners. Among the most well received of the talks were the architectural historian Jeffrey Klee’s on Quaker architecture in New Jersey, and Nicholas Vincent’s on American pier tables. Vincent, a research assistant in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discussed the evolution of and regional distinctions between nineteenth-century pier tables, which reached their peak of popularity in the 1840s. One forum attendee from Fredericksburg, Virginia, commented: “I know of at least four pier tables on the market in Fredericksburg that can be had for $300 to $400. Now I’ll go back and take a closer look.”

Some of the most enthusiastic applause-a standing ovation, in fact-came after the “Historic Fashion Show” organized and presented by Linda Baumgarten, curator of textiles and costumes at Colonial Williamsburg. Featured were at least twenty different outfits-men’s, women’s, and children’s, all modeled by Colonial Williamsburg staffers and members of their families-that traced the history of fashion from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The garments were made by staff members from the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center, Fashion Trades, and  Museum Education after originals in the collection, or to replicate clothing that appears in portraits in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. In these latter cases, the designers and models managed to re-create the tableaus presented in the paintings with truly remarkable accuracy.

Next year’s forum is scheduled for February 7 to 11, 2010. For more information, visit the Web site

Above right: Pier table made by Homes and Haines, New York, 1820-25. Mahogany, marble; height 37, width 42 1/2, depth 17 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Frederick Warren Stanyer, 1978 (1978.506).

Above left: Seventeenth century meets eighteenth cenury backstage at the “Historic Fashion Show,” Mark Schneider and Neal Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg staff members. Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.