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For both the 2004 and 2005 Interlaken Olde Home Day celebration the Historical Society was asked to present fashion shows from the 200 year history of our area. These garments were researched and designed costumer Nicole Nelson and constructed by local volunteers. We invite you to look at the dresses and browse their descriptions.


Seneca County was organized in 1804, part of the frontier of both the young country and western New York. Muslin was the main fabric but others such as wool, silk, tissue, gauze, crepe, and satin, were popular. The fashion of the day was to have a low neckline. The waistline was high with a long narrow skirt either straight or with slight gathering. A Grecian style overskirt was popular and varied in lengths and draping styles. The dress buttoned or laced up the back and could have short puffed sleeves. Shown here is a dress of this simple style in rose pink. The open neck and high waistline of the bodice combined with the long narrow skirt easily identify this as dress from the early days of our county. A simple straw hat is added for protection from the sun and is held on with a ribbon.


Throughout the 1820s ladies skirts became fuller, waistlines were dropping and by 1830 the waist was again located at its natural position. A reproduction pattern was used to make the silver and black dress that Sally Hubbard is wearing. The large balloon like sleeves are typical for this period. The skirt is gathered at the waist with many petticoats to give it fullness. The neckline is open, and on cooler days a shawl would often be worn.

The time period of the Civil War saw many changes in lifestyle and dresses. The hoop skirt and crinoline had been introduced in the 1850s, and sewing machines were found in many homes. Dresses changed with these new innovations. The hourglass shape was the ideal with wide shoulders, tiny waist and fuller skirts. To provide this hourglass look the shoulder line was dropped off the natural shoulder, and the bodices were fitted with narrow waists. A proper lady wore a high neckline often accented with a collar. The sleeves were long and came in a variety of styles. They could be fitted or full and gathered into a cuff or an open pagoda with an under sleeve. This two-piece dress is made of matching fabric so that it looks like a dress rather than skirt and bodice. The wide skirt completes the hourglass look. As a very proper lady of this era her hair is confined and covered with a hat.

Many of the fashion rules were eased for eveningwear during the 1860s. The neckline opened up and was sometimes completely off the shoulder. Sleeves were verging on being non-existent. The colors were brighter and decorative trim was added. Though the hair was worn up and covered during the day it could be let down for evening festivities though there would always be some form of ornamentation. This purple and lavender ball gown has short cap sleeves and a decorative overskirt. Ball gown bodices also returned to an earlier look in that they fastened in back and had a pointed front waist. Notice the headpiece with ribbons beckoning the young men to “come along.” At the ball she will use both gloves and her fan for flirting.

If you are wondering what gives these civil war dresses them their shape; the answer in a word, “underpinnings.” The basics undergarments include a chemise, corset, corset-cover, stockings, drawers or pantalets, and petticoat. These are all made of cotton muslin. On top of these basic items a hoop and decorative petticoat is added. With the arrival of the hoop skirt the 10-12 petticoats needed in the 1830s and 1840s were eliminated. A lady of this era had on more clothing in her “un-dressed” state than many ladies usually wear today.

Another look that was gaining in popularity at this time were the bloomer outfits, which got their name from Amelia Bloomer. They allowed for more freedom of movement while maintaining a very proper look. The dress follows the lines of a traditional day dress with gathered sleeves, high neck and front buttons. The bloomers were made from leftover fabric when the skirt was cut down.


By the 1870s the fullness of the hoop era was changing to the Bustle era. One of the leading ladies magazines noted, :All dresses are worn bouffant at the back, and are arranged to look very flat and slender at the sides. The skirt is tied back over the bustle, which should be long and narrow, kept in place with elastic bands. This bustle should add nothing to the breadth of the hips, but is required to push the skirts far out backward, supporting them half of their length, making them flow out gracefully.”  With its lavender base and plaid accents this dress is at the height of fashion. The skirt is accentuated with both a front drape the helps keep the skirt flat and sweeps around to the back and a layered bustle. The ruching on the sleeves and the collar were done in the same accent fabric.

The 1880s ushered in the Second Bustle era. Women were striving to exercise their influence in society and pave their own path in fashion. Colors were bright jewel tones and fabrics such as velvet, satin and brocades were used. The presence of the bustle was still seen, but not as prominent as in the 1870s. The skirt was fairly flat in the front with the fullness in the back. This style was called the “natural form.” The bustle would return by the end of the decade. Often there was an overskirt and sometimes even a train. The bodice was a fitted style accented by princess seams. The sleeves were tight fitting and full length for daywear but shortened to three-quarter length or cap sleeves for evening. This dress was designed using examples from the Kent State University Clothing Institute. It is a reception dress of deep plum satin. The overskirt, train, fitted bodice and sleeves tell us that it is from the 1880s with its underskirt of blue/gray organdy layered with a printed and flocked voile half skirt or apron for accent. The same flocked voile highlights the princess seams on the bodice and adds an open collar at the neckline. The little black hat adds a finishing touch to this outfit.

The 1890's saw changes in education for women including the opening of Radcliff College in 1894. Along with reforms in education there were changes in the style of dress as well. There was still the look of a bustle, but in a very subtle form. Skirts continued to have fullness in the back over a very small bustle. The sleeve was attracting attention with its huge leg-of-mutton design. The snug fitting bodice has a pointed front waistline accented by trim. This waistline point was reminiscent of the 1840s and 50s.This green dress is spotted in any crowd and shouts 1890's by the sleeves. It has an overskirt flowing into a train, which was often seen during this time. Similar to many photographs of the time this dress is made of printed cotton and crushed velvet using a reproduction pattern. The pointed waistline and pleated front girdle widens in the back almost to the neckline. The high gathered collar continues the vertical line giving the dress a long slim look.

In 1904 Seneca County celebrated its centennial and a village in the south end of the county became an incorporated village and changed its name. We also see changes in women’s dress as well. The skirt style most popular was the floor length dust-catching skirt, which fit smoothly over the hips to the knee and flared out at the bottom. The sleeves were relatively plain with some gathers at the arms eye. The bodice, sometimes called a pigeon bodice, accented the bust with the help of a corset that also narrowed the look of the waist. This dress is reminiscent of what schoolteacher, Georgiana Wheeler would have worn. Ms. Wheeter suggested the name Interlaken for the newly incorporated village. This model is made from gray herringbone fabric for the skirt and jacket with white cotton for the bodice. The large picture hat with its tulle net and silk roses completes the outfit.

 The Titanic left England for America on its maiden voyage in 1912. Just as a great ship was lost when the Titanic sank, many fashion trends were disappearing as well. Fabrics were becoming lighter and colors brighter as fashion was moving to a new level of style. Hemlines were rising and the skirt was tighter without any sign of a bustle from the previous decades. This dress is reminiscent of that bygone era with its tight skirt and dipping neckline. The printed chiffon fabric of the overskirt and sleeves add accent to the chocolate brown of the underskirt and bodice. The popular harem skirt was inspired by ancient Egypt, including the slit up the front. The waistline has moved higher and the bodice features a lower neckline. The movie Titanic inspired several dress patterns, one of which was used for this outfit.

Fashionable women of the roaring twenties turned to magazines such as Cosmopolitan and The New Yorker for their inspiration. Skirt hemlines were at an all time high reaching the knee and on occasion just above. With many different skirt styles you had plenty of opportunity to look your best. The waistline dropped to the hip and was often accented with a sash and bow or cascade of fabric on one side. The neckline was open with either a round or square design. For eveningwear sleeves were often left off entirely or were only small cap sleeves. This model is ready to hit the dance floor in this white crepe flapper dress from the twenties. With its dropped waistline and multi-layered skirt all she needs are her beads and she’s ready to hit the town.

Using many of the same features of dropped waist and multi-layers is this 1928 two-tone dress. Designed for the end of the roaring 20’s era we can see small changes that would later develop into Eleanor Roosevelt’s standard black dress.

October 1929 and the world changed in many ways. The depression era brought gloom and hard times to many people. In 1931 the Star Spangled Banner became the national anthem and with it hope for the future. Fashion was also on a road back to a conservative style. The skirt hemlines suddenly dropped down to mid-calf and floor length for eveningwear. This golden cotton dress was made from an original DuBarry pattern reflecting the long lean style. The waistline has returned to its natural place with a sash and large bow added for decoration. You can see the influence of the leg-of-mutton sleeves accented here with a lace cap. With fabric being at a premium, the return of those large sleeves was not widely used.


The fashion scene in the 1950s took some interesting turns. Skirts were full with hemlines falling to the floor for evening. The bolero jacket was gaining popularity especially with sleeveless and backless dresses. Colors were more vibrant and alive.

Do you remember poodle skirts and sweaters at the malt shop? Poodle skirts were basic circle skirts with a poodle or other design appliquéd on to the skirt. Though the skirt could be made of any fabric felt was the most popular. This lavender skirt has a black Scottie dog. Shown here with a fitted knit top, coordinating scarf and white shoes popular to the time.

The 1960s were a decade of turbulence and change. The nation’s fashion eye was on the White House where Jackie’s favorite style, the A-line dress, was gaining popularity. It was a less restrictive style than those of previous decades. Adding a pillbox hat and white gloves and you were always ready to go out in style. The hemline varied in length depending on where you were headed. It floated around the knees during the day and crept back to the floor for the evening. Shown is a simple A-line dress of lightweight peach brocade. The high open neckline and three-quarter length sleeves announce its mid-sixties vintage.


This two piece outfit brings back memories of the colorful seventies with the skirted top and bell bottom hip-huggers. She looks ready to party.





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