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|Named Person:||Elizabeth Keckley|
|Material Type:||Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript|
|Document Type:||Book, Archival Material|
|All Authors / Contributors:||
Virginia E Reynolds
|Credits:||Advisor: Cynthia Falk.|
|Description:||vi, 70 leaves : ill.(some col.), charts, map, port. ; 29 cm.|
|Other Titles:||Elizabeth Keckly and Washington, D.C.'s African American dressmakers, 1860-1870|
|Responsibility:||Virginia E. Reynolds.|
Drawing upon city directories and census schedules, this thesis contextualizes Keckly and her occupation by investigating the relationship between Keckly's life as a domestic slave and life as a free dressmaker, examining local social and economic conditions, and exploring the culture of dressmaking in Washington, D.C. from 1860-1870. Numerous local factors in both the black and white communities combined to make Washington, D.C. favorable to African American dressmakers. An established antebellum black community laid the foundation for an expansion of black business in the 1860s. Washington's population swelled throughout the decade, providing the elite clientele to support dressmaking and a group of seamstresses to perform less-skilled labor such as sewing long, straight seams.
Nineteenth-century Americans placed substantial social value on clothing, which, beyond covering the body, visually communicated individual character and status. The exacting fit and fine materials of custom-made apparel distinguished elite women in Washington and elsewhere. Prior to the Civil War, upper-class women in the capital turned to larger, more cosmopolitan cities for high-end clothing. Partially a result of demographic changes, by the 1860s dressmaking expertise was available locally and filled a distinct need.
African American dressmakers were instrumental in tailoring elite white female identity in the 1860s. Dressmaking enabled skilled black women to create a niche within Washington's developing social and commercial sectors. For some like Elizabeth Keckly, fashion became a means of employment and empowerment.
- Keckley, Elizabeth, -- ca. 1818-1907.
- Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies -- Theses.
- State University of New York College at Oneonta -- Theses.
- African American women -- Dressmakers -- Washington (D.C.) -- Theses.
- Businesswomen -- Washington (D.C.)
- Dressmaking -- Economic aspects -- Theses.
- Fashion -- Social aspects -- Theses.
- Slaves -- Emancipation.
- Women dressmakers -- Washington (D.C.)
- Women's clothing industry -- History -- 19th century.