Fashion at The Henry Ford: American Style and Spirit

We enjoy the revolving exhibits at The Henry Ford Museum in Deerborn, MI. Every few months or so a new temporary exhibit arrives. The latest has to do with fashion and is called American Style and Spirit and focuses on one family’s journey through the generations as told by their clothing and fashion.

Interesting, eh? I won’t add a lot of commentary but suffice it to say that these are definitely beautiful things to behold and each show a great deal of creativity in their design!

Note the differences in design cues for the garments as we travel through the years (some dates are approximate). Let’s have a look:

Worn by Jane Prindle Colton Gammon – 1856

This was her wedding dress that was made in the United States out of silk gauze.

Worn by Catherine Prindle Roddis – 1929

This afternoon dress was also made in the United States and is fabricated with pina fiber and silk taffeta. The main fabric used is actually woven out of pineapple leaves!

Worn by Catherine Sarah Prindle – 1908

This is her wedding dress which was again made in the United States. Made of cotton net organza, silk satin ribbon, chemical lace, and silk embroidery. The original lining was silk taffeta.

A point of interest in the design is the princess style, shaped by seams from the shoulder to hem, rather than a seam at the waistline.

Worn by Agusta Denton Roddis – 1932

Made again in the good old U.S. or A. using silk taffeta and milliner’s velvet. I thought this evening gown was particularly striking!

Worn by Agusta Denton Roddis – 1934

This day dress was likely made by a family member and is Rayon and sheared beaver with a metal accent belt. It was likely inspired by French designer, Jean Patou, as it resembles a Patou coat found in a catelogue in the ladies home.

Worn by Sarah Denton Roddis – 1914

This day dress was sold by Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, IL. It is made from silk, silk corded applique, embroidery, soutache braid, and net with cotton lace.

So far I think we can see that the earlier the dress the more detailed and ornate it is. In later years dresses came to have plainer designs but with bolder cuts and colors.

Worn by Agusta Denton Roddis – 1968

This dress was designed by Averardo Bessi and sold by Bonwit Teller. It is a silk jersey.

Worn by Catherine Prindle Roddis – 1928

This evening dress was made by Adele & Cie of Paris, France, and is made of silk chiffon and silk crepe with rhinestones.

Worn by Agusta Denton Roddis – 1945

Designed by Samuel Kass and sold by the Weathered Misses Shop of Chicago, IL. It consists of Rayon and cotton. The fabric for this day dress was made by Onondaga Silk Company to promote a Spanish perfume called Tuya (‘for you alone’).

Worn by Sarah Denton Roddis – 1895

This dress was made in the United States with silk chiffon and cotton lace. It was updated in 1910 to have leg-of-mutton sleeves changed into long fitted ones, more in fashion at the time. In this way one could save a favorite dress by bringing it into style while saving money!

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Worn by Catherine Prindle Roddis – 1933

Made in the United States using cotton lace, silk velvet, and silk crepe back satin, this evening dress was worn for her 25th wedding anniversary.


And there you have a look at women’s fashion through dress styles over the years with the added treat of having every garment on display coming from the same family! I hope you enjoyed exploring creativity as it is found in dress design and the world of fashion.

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