Cape Ann Museum CAM Connects
Fashion tells a story, and in today's issue of CAM Connects we get inspired by a few fashionable features.

March 2, 2023

Left: Lou Burnett (1904-1999), The School Teacher, c.1950s, oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the artist, 1990 [Acc. #2674.2].
Right: Rutledge Bate (1891-1964), Portrait of Hjordis Parker, c.1940s, oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Erik Parillo, 2006 [Acc. #2006.10].

Dear Friends,

The wonderful team of Collection and Education colleagues at the Cape Ann Museum has been deeply engaged in preparing this next issue of CAM Connects. The discoveries and stories captured are thrilling and we trust that you will enjoy this exploration into how fashion has helped shape life on Cape Ann up to the present day!

From fashionable tales about paper dolls to a fishing attire company turned fashion house, through to an immortalized family dress and 21st century fashion connections, the collections and collective cultural heritage that the Cape Ann Museum has the privilege to steward, never ceases to amazeThis CAM Connects issue was in part inspired by the current Designed and Hand-blocked by the Folly Cove Designers exhibition, which was also the catalyst for the Museum’s Assistant Curator, Leon Doucette’s fascinating lecture exploring the Folly Cove neighborhood a few decades before the Folly Cove Designers made their mark on Cape Ann FashionMay this lecture, marking the first CAMTalk of 2023, and the stories below inspire your next visit to the Museum’s downtown campus where an exciting array of exhibitions are now on view. 

Please also save the date for the member opening of the Museum’s next temporary exhibition, This Unique Place: Paintings & Drawings by Jeff Weaver on Saturday March 25 at 3pm. We would be delighted to welcome you to the galleries then and many times beforehand too! 

With gratitude and all best wishes,

Oliver Barker, Director


What are you wearing today? Why did you choose that shirt or those shoes? Did you opt for comfort, warmth or style? Whether we decide upon them consciously or not, these are decisions we’re each faced with every day. As a result, what we choose to wear says a lot about us: who we are, how we’d like to be seen, and even the time and place in which we live. Those who take the time to look will find the language of fashion a rich and complex one.

Inspired in part by the clothing featured in Designed and Hand-blocked by the Folly Cove Designers, which closes on March 26th, this month’s issue of CAM Connects is focused on just that: fashion. Whether you find it an obsession, a hassle, or something in between, like it or not, fashion is everywhere. Here at the Cape Ann Museum, you’ll find it on the visitors and staff, featured in paintings and sculptures, and even in historic photos. Everywhere it appears, it tells a story. 

Mary Hopkinson’s Dress

Charles Hopkinson (1869-1962), Three Dancing Girls (Ladies Chain), 1915-1923, oil on canvas. Private Collection. Pictured beside the painting is an image of the dress worn by the central figure, consisting of (from top to bottom) a ball bodice, day bodice, and skirt. Private Collection.

One of visitors’ favorite paintings in the Cape Ann Museum is Charles Hopkinson’s oil on canvas Three Dancing Girls, also known as Ladies Chain. Done between 1915 and 1923, the painting is an endearing portrait of three of the artist’s five daughters, Harriot, Mary and Elinor, playing on the lawn of Sharksmouth, the family’s home in Manchester. Infused with light and capturing the sense of joyful spontaneity associated with childhood and summertime, the painting never fails to draw visitors in as they enjoy the galleries.

In the painting, Mary Hopkinson (second from left) is wearing a red and black dress with velvet trim that dates to the mid-19th century and once belonged to one of her aunts. The dress is made of silk taffeta and consists of a full skirt with two bodices, a day bodice to be worn for casual events, and a ball bodice for more formal occasions. The day bodice, which extends below the waist and is being worn by Mary in the painting, has a jewel neckline set off by a white collar. Its Pagoda shaped sleeves with their lace undersleeves were all the rage during the 1850s and into the ‘60s. The sleeves went very low onto the arm, making the shoulders appear wide and sloping. The skirt was full and would have been supported by either hoops or petticoats. The overall design of the dress was intended to accentuate the smallness of the waist. It is interesting to note that in 1923, when Dancing Girls was completed, women’s fashions were far more streamlined, often incorporating androgynous forms that minimized a woman’s natural shape.

By the time Charles Hopkinson finished Three Dancing Girls, his reputation as one of this country’s most important portrait painters was well established and his services were in constant demand. Throughout his long and productive career, however, his five daughters, whether playing dress-up and dancing on the lawn, or posing formally inside Sharksmouth, remained his favorite subject to paint. One of his children later recalled: “We all thought it was the duty of every child to sit quietly while her father painted her.”

Folly Cove Fashion

A selection of Folly Cove Designer clothing on display at the Cape Ann Museum as part of Designed and Hand-blocked by the Folly Cove Designers. Dress forms in this display were generously lent by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

Before it closes at the end of the day on Sunday, March 26, all are encouraged to visit the Museum’s special expanded exhibition exploring the amazing work of the Folly Cove Designers, an exhibition that includes clothing designed and made by members of the group.  

The Folly Cove Designers were in operation from 1941 to 1969 and, during their relatively brief but spectacularly successful time in business, earned the well-deserved respect of people far and wide. Designed and Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers explores the accomplishments of the group, calling out many of the Designers who used the fabrics they designed and printed to create clothing.  Working almost exclusively with cotton, linen and other lightweight materials, Designers made skirts, dresses for women and children, shorts, vests and scarves. They also made table linens and aprons. Their designs, which were often extraordinarily intricate, leant themselves perfectly to clothing, particularly the heavily pleated mid-length skirts the group was best known for.  

Advertisements for dresses with designs by the Folly Cove Designers sold at Jays department store in Boston and Wellesley, c. 1940s. From the Folly Cove Designers Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Included in the Museum’s special exhibition are examples of clothing made by Louise Kenyon, who was likely the most accomplished seamstress in the group and who, along with fellow Designer Ida Bruno, had examples of her clothing picked up by Jay’s department store. Additional items made by Mary Maletskos, Elizabeth Holloran and Peggy Norton are also on display. Interestingly, Eino Natti, one of the few men in the group and one of the most productive in terms of the number of designs he created and their complexity, does not appear to have ever created any clothing with his fabrics. One standout piece in the show is a simple sleeveless boat neck shift, made by Mary Maletskos using her design Nasturtiums.

In case you missed it, check out Boston Globe art critic Murray Whyte’s glowing review of Designed and Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers.

You might also want to stop in the Museum on Saturday, March 11, to hear Sinikka Nogelo talk about her 1987 film on the Folly Cove Designers. Reserve a seat here.

Fashion Out ‘O Gloucester: The MIGHTY-MAC Archives

Advertisement mock-up for This is Boatwear. MIGHTY-MAC Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Richard Bell and Mac Bell, 2008 [Acc. #2008.29].

 “The [MIGHTY-MAC] collection provides a unique insight into the evolution of a small company. Located in Gloucester, MA., MIGHTY-MAC started primarily as a maker of oil clothing for the fishermen back in the horse and buggy days (1909) and grew into a world-wide corporation recognized as a leader and innovator in the fashion clothing industry and the MIGHTY-MAC trademark became a symbol of quality, style and craftsmanship for foul-weather gear and fair-weather wear."

-Howard Thomas, CAM Library & Archives Volunteer, 2010. 

In 2021, the CAM Community mourned the loss of Howard Thomas. Howard was an enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer of CAM’s Library & Archives for over a decade. When asked recently, his then supervisor Stephanie Buck recalled, “He was the kind of volunteer who would do anything asked of him and more, and when given a project he would approach it systematically and thoroughly.” 

Fifteen years ago, the Museum was gifted a substantial archival collection by local business MIGHTY-MAC. The collection consisted of over 50 boxes of advertisements, photographs, design sketches, scrapbooks, awards, and so much more. Who better to tackle a large project like this than the attention-to-detail lawyer turned Library Volunteer, Howard Thomas? Above, we share a few words on the history of MIGHTY-MAC from Howard in 2010 when he completed processing and writing the finding aid for the collection.” 

Left: Advertisement mock-up for Boatwear Out O’Gloucester.
Right: Contact sheet of model showcasing a newly designed MIGHTY-MAC coat. MIGHTY-MAC Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Richard Bell and Mac Bell, 2008 [Acc. #2008.29].

To see fashionable highlights from the collection, view the rest of the finding aid, and to continue reading about the company’s origin, click here.

Paper Dolls: Fashion in the Archives

Paper dolls with additional outfits and card from Archival Collection #07: Paper Dolls. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Fashion is found throughout the Museum: depicted in paintings, hanging on mannequins, and even filed in the archives. The Museum’s Paper Doll Collection is from the late 19th and early 20th century and includes two series of Raphael Tuck dolls: the Fairy Tale Series, that belonged to Ruth Woodbury’s mother, Helen (Keach) Perkins in the late 1800s; and Lordy Lionel, which was a Valentines present to Susan Story Wonson from her aunt Alice in 1895. The dolls appear to have been from Sunday newspapers and are reinforced with a backing and items from other commercial sources.

Paper doll with additional outfits from Archival Collection #07: Paper Dolls. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Paper dolls are an ancient form of imaginative play for both children and adults. They are usually made of a two-dimensional figure drawn or printed on paper which is accompanied by similarly produced interchangeable clothing. The first European paper dolls were made in France in the mid-18th century as jumping-jack puppets to entertain adults.  In England, the best paper dolls were made by Raphael Tuck & Sons beginning in 1866. The first paper dolls produced in America were made by J. Belcher in Boston in 1812.

21st Century Fashion

With these looks back at some of the fashions of Cape Ann from the past two centuries, you may be wondering how has the Museum showcased fashion of this century? To start, we look to this 2009 Video Vault lecture given by Sigrid Olsen: Art Becomes Fashion in which she discusses blending her art with textiles in her shop in Rockport. 

Video still from VL19.2 - Art Becomes Fashion – Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Sigrid Olsen, 7/25/2009. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Click here for transcription of lecture.

Next, check out the history of the seARTS Wearable Art Group and view photographs of their past runway shows and events at CAM and elsewhere! 

Lastly, what would fashion on Cape Ann be without a mention of the local shop Bananas. View highlights from the 2005 show, A Window on Main Street designed by Bananas owner Richard Leonard. Included in the video, made by Joe Kelley in partnership with Leonard to recap the show, is the construction of the famed Barbie Dress.  

Video still from The Making of "A Window on Main Street" exhibit designed by Richard Leonard. Video by Joe Kelley, 2005.