Louisiana Area Historical Museum: “The History of Tea and Fashions of the Time”
Wearing the outfit of a dressing maid, Carolyn Miller tells the story of tea using period clothing to tell the story.
If you call Carolyn Miller old fashioned, she’ll probably treat it as a compliment.
Wearing Victorian period dress, Miller performed “The History of Tea and Fashions of the Time” at the Louisiana Area Historical Museum’s annual luncheon on Saturday, May 10 at the Seton Center.
It was Miller’s third appearance at the luncheon to discuss history through fashion.
“I love old clothes,” Miller said. “I’ve been collecting them for more than 35 years and did it initially to decorate my house.”
After several years “I thought, why don’t I wear some of these things, so I literally took a dress off the wall. Now I wear at least one piece of antique clothing every day of my life.”
The clothes range from the 1800s to the 1960s, said the Sedalia resident.
In her programs, Miller discusses the progression of fashion and what influenced changes and trends. She chose the clothing of a dressing maid for her recent appearance here.
She explained the clothing of the period as tea moved from China to England and eventually the United States. Iced tea was invented at the 1904 St. World’s Fair because it was too warm to sell hot tea, she said.
“Americans also invented tea bags much to the dismay of the English,” Miller said.
When tea became popular in England in Victorian times, women wore a lot of black, much like today, Miller said.
Most clothing was two-pieced, which led to mixing and matching items, which is also popular again, she noted.
Broad shouldered outfits were also stylish in Queen Victoria’s time, Miller said.
“They came back in the 1940s and the 1980s, everything come back around,” she said.
One thing that women don’t wear these days is boots so tight and pointed that some women had their little toe severed to fit into them, Miller said.
In Victorian times, women’s purses were small as well and not jammed with the needs of the world, she said.
“They carried what they needed. A hankie, a little coin purse and maybe a calling card,” Miller said. “They also never carried a purse over their shoulder. Purses of today are like luggage compared to theirs.”
Miller said her display of fashion used to be available at various second-hand stores, but not anymore.
“The best place to find it is in people’s houses,” she said.