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Jane McClure shows “stays” or ladies’ underwear from the 1780s.

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Carlyle House Hosts Historic Fashion Show

15 models highlight styles from Colonial and Federal periods, 1753 to 1760s.

Living historians modeled 18th-century clothing at an Historic Fashion Show at the Carlyle House on Saturday, Sept. 21 — clothing that would have been worn by society maverick John Carlyle and his family in Old Town Alexandria. This year’s show focused on the Colonial, Federal and Civil War-era (1753 to 1860s), as well as the mid-19th century. “Our goal was to share the history of fashion that the Carlyle family would have been wearing and encountering among their peers,” said Helen Wirka, curator and site specialist at Carlyle House. The Carlyle’s home was the center of Alexandria’s wealth and politics from 1741 to 1780, according to Wirka. John Carlyle was a town founder, surveyor, justice of the peace, and building contractor. He hosted the Bread and Butter Ball, and entertained the likes of George and Martha Washington, Gen. Edward Braddock and five governors at his mansion. He married Sara Fairfax in 1747, and the couple had seven children. After Sara died, he married Sybil West in 1761; and they had three children.


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