Every so often Adam Bouse, who manages Museum Theater, comes to me for a costume. Sometimes we have the right clothing in our inventory and other times we have to make or purchase clothing. We’ve clothed a Civil War colonel and Quaker lady, 1886 entertainers and labor activists, as well as John Wise, the balloon pilot featured in our 1859 Balloon Voyage experience.
This time we’re dressing John Wise’s niece who appeared at a balloon launch dressed as Lady Liberty.
What did Lady Liberty look like in the 19th century? We know what Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi
thought she looked like and every American is familiar with our Statue of Liberty. Was that the only image recognized by Americans in the mid-1800’s? I turned to the internet to see what I could find.
Columbia, another name for Lady Liberty, was sometimes draped in Grecian robes, but she was also seen in fashionable tight bodices sprinkled with stars and striped skirts. Her head gear varied from a pointed tiara to a wreath to a very popular symbol of liberty at the time, the Phrygian cap
. She carried our flag, a shield and sometimes a sword. I had a lot of choices.
Another element I had to include in our costume for Lady Liberty was versatility. Our actresses are not always the same size. That eliminated a fitted bodice and for a while I thought I would duplicate the Statue of Liberty
using bunting for her shawl. However, I found a photo dated 1862 (left) and I liked the idea of using an image closer to John Wise’s time period.
Our Lady Liberty wears a loose tunic, trimmed in gold, pulled in at the waist by a rope belt (the same rope we use in our 1836 corded petticoats). The skirt is pleated to a drawstring waistband making it infinitely adjustable. I made her Phrygian cap from deep red wool that we had on hand. She’s wearing a bunting shawl, fastened at the shoulder with a 3-star belt buckle.
What will Lady Liberty have to say to guests at Conner Prairie? Come and find out during Glorious Fourth
, July 2 – 4, 2010.