Invisible Makers: Textiles, Dress, and Marginalized People in 18th- and 19th-Century America

Globalized manufacturing in the 21st century has stimulated a greater need to understand where, how, by whom, and under what conditions our clothing is made. In the past, the weaving of textiles and making of everyday clothing has largely been perceived as anonymous, most especially with regard to marginalized people living in white societies. Research into the efforts of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color to design, produce, acquire, and modify textiles and dress within the Anglo-European, North American framework has historically been difficult to quantify because of a paucity of surviving evidence as well as limited attempts both past and present to record and credit those efforts. This forum details contributions of often-overlooked populations in American society to the textile and clothing trades, and promises to enrich and deepen current conversations about fashion both past and present.

Join Historic Deerfield on April 10th to hear lectures from a dynamic roster of academic and museum professionals discussing examples of the important roles and contributions of BIPOC textile and clothing producers and consumers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Presented as case studies, the research includes textiles and clothing produced by forced labor within plantations; people of color working as tailors and dressmakers in Massachusetts; and marginalized people who fashioned their dressed bodies using Anglo-European garments in ways that both subverted normative styles while expressing “other” cultural identities.

This program will be presented live via Zoom webinar. The link to the webinar will be sent to registrants prior to the event. Recordings will be available to registrants for a period of two weeks after each session.

The cost for the webinar is $60 ($50 for members), $85 for new members* and $45 for students. For more information, contact Julie Orvis at or (413) 775-7179. Use the button below to register online.

Cancellation Policy: A full refund of the registration fee can be obtained if you cancel before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 26, 2021.

*This registration gives you a new Individual Membership in the Friends of Historic Deerfield (a $50 value) that entitles you to free admission to Historic Deerfield, 10% discount at the Deerfield Inn and Museum Store, Historic Deerfield Magazine, the members’ newsletter published twice a year, and invitations to members’ exhibition openings, lectures, and special trips. Special membership offer is not valid for renewals of current or lapsed memberships.

Download a PDF flyer.

Speakers, Topics and Schedule:

9:15 a.m. Welcome and Introductions

9:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote Lecture

“Someone Knows My Name: A Framework for Researching the Lives and Experiences of Under-represented Craftspeople in Early America”, Dr. Tiffany Momon, Assistant Professor of History, University of the South, and founder, Black Craftspeople Digital Archive

10:30-10:45 a.m. Break

Panel 1: The Fabric of Enslaved Labor

10:45-11:15 a.m. “From Home Spun to Household Industry: Textiles in the Archives of the William Floyd Estate on Long Island,” Dr. Jennifer L. Anderson, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

11:15-11:45 a.m. “‘Rachel made Moses a scarlet waistcoat’: The Contributions of Enslaved Women to Clothing Production at Rose Hill Plantation, 1814-1845,” Dr. Ann Buermann Wass, Independent Researcher

11:45 a.m.- 12 p.m. Q & A

12-1 p.m. Lunch Break

Panel 2: Fashioning an Appearance as Negotiation and Self-Expression

1-2 p.m. “Luxury Slaves, Negro Governors, and Jim Crow: Black Dandy Beginnings,” Dr. Monica L. Miller, Professor of Africana Studies and English, Barnard College, Columbia University

2-3 p.m. “‘A boy’s shirt for Waghrosra’s wife’s son’: the global history of an early American Indigenous trade garment.” Dr. Laura Johnson, Linda Eaton Associate Curator of Textiles, Winterthur Museum, Gardens, & Library, and Affiliated Assistant Professor, University of Delaware

3-3:15 p.m. Q & A

3:15-3:30 p.m. Break

Panel 3: Following the Threads of Dressmaking and Tailoring

3:30-4 p.m. “‘Dresses set beautiful’: Black Craftswomen in the Nineteenth-Century Connecticut Valley,” Dr. Marla R. Miller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

4-4:30 p.m. “Behind the Seams: Enslaved Labor in the 1770s Boston Tailoring Trade”
David E. Lazaro, Curator of Textiles, Historic Deerfield

4:30-4:45 p.m. Q & A/Wrap Up


10 Apr 2021


9:15 am - 4:45 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: 10 Apr 2021
  • Time: 9:15 am - 4:45 pm

More Info

Read More


Single events