By Patty Edmonson Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume & Textiles for the Western Reserve Historical Society
Even before the founding of our country, patriotic Americans have displayed their pride with reminders of our nation’s ideals and achievements. Clothes can help support a cause like war, or celebrate national holidays such as Independence Day. Some ensembles show national pride, evoking the past with historically-inspired details and silhouettes. Others display patriotic imagery, and still others simply make use of the classic red, white, and blue.
Lua Carey wore this patriotic dress in Xenia, Ohio when she was a young girl, just after the Civil War. Her father, Hugh Carey, worked as a real estate agent on bustling Detroit Street, where Lua and her family could have shopped for their patriotic textiles. Clearly invested in her country, she helped organize Xenia’s local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1894.
Ohioan Ione Bevier Breckenridge wore this suit during her trip to the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia. She would have seen the latest fashions and textile technology, as well as historical examples. One exhibit even featured women in 18th-century dress, cooking and sewing in a log cabin. Appropriately, colonial menswear inspired the styling of Mrs. Breckenridge’s ensemble, which celebrates Independence Day.
A more specific way to express patriotism is by supporting national efforts. In 1943, American Enka began producing rayon for parachutes, but the company also made fashion fabrics like this print. The design features images of war savings stamps, first issued for WWII in 1942, in an effort to support the war effort and encourage feelings of patriotism. If Americans purchased enough stamps to fill a special booklet, they could receive a Series E war bond.