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Anna G. Larson, Published September 12 2012

Threads to the past: Show displays vintage Clay County fashions

If you go

What: Historic Fashions of the Valley

When: 7 tonight

Where: Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, 202 1st Ave. N.

Info: Cost is $10 per person, with all proceeds benefiting

the Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County. For more information, call (218) 299-5511.

MOORHEAD - After 100 years, Annie Gilberry’s wedding dress will be worn down a different kind of aisle.

The ivory chiffon wedding dress from 1912 is one of more than 200 items that will grace the catwalk tonight at the Historic Fashions of the Valley fashion show, hosted by the Historical & Cultural Society of Clay County.

The fashion show celebrates the 150th anniversary of the formation of Clay County and was inspired by the Victorian Trunk and Tea Fundraiser hosted by the cultural society in May 2011, said Maureen Kelly Jonason, executive director of the HCSCC.

“It was well received, but it only looked at one small collection,” she said. “We wanted to expand on the idea, and it’s not just wedding dresses or pioneer period – that’s what’s unique.”

The HCSCC put out a call to the community in the spring asking for clothing that was worn by locals throughout the last 150 years.

“Every piece of clothing has a person and a story behind it,” Jonason said. “It’s a fascinating way to share the history of the county with people.”

Gloria Lee, a board member of the HCSCC and Georgetown, Minn., resident, organized the event. A local history and fashion buff, Lee coordinated two similar events in Georgetown. She said she is drawn to vintage clothes because of their impeccable details.

“Many of the garments were handmade, stitched with loving hands by mothers and grandmothers,” she said. “Wedding gowns – whole families, mothers and daughters, worked on them. There was so much detail; there was a fine attention to detail.”

The two-piece ivory and lace wedding dress from 1891 is one of Lee’s fashion show favorites. The dress was worn by Alma Schow when she married Even Holte. Schow and Holte were some of the first settlers in Noble Township in Cass County, Lee said.

“The inside of the dress is as beautiful as the outside,” she said. “The workmanship is exquisite.”

Echoing Jonason’s sentiments, Lee said she wishes she knew the story behind each article of clothing. One item that she would particularly like to know more about is a flapper dress her aunt wore in the 1920s. Lee guesses that the brown dress with intricate hand beading was only worn once or twice.

“It’s in such perfect condition,” she said. “My aunt passed away before I had a chance to ask her about the dress. It’s important to learn those stories.”

Telling the stories of past and present Valley residents is a goal of the fashion show, Jonason said.

“Anyone who comes to this style show will gain a real appreciation for the sense of style from the past and also how many families in our midst who have been saving and preserving our past through their family and their clothing,” she said.

Lisa Vedaa, the collections manager at the HCSCC, said this is the first time the HCSCC has hosted a historical fashion show since the 1960s.

Approximately 20 local models, mostly children or grandchildren of people who lent the items to the show, will wear the vintage clothing.

One of the most unique pieces of outerwear that will be worn is a horsehair coat.

“Families wanted to remember the horse and make use of its hide,” Vedaa said. “It wasn’t a shocking thing back then.”

Some items, like baby booties and more delicate pieces, will be on display rather than worn in the show. None of the worn items are from the society’s permanent collection, Jonason said.

“Once a piece of clothing comes into our care as an artifact, it is no longer worn by people because of the potential of damage,” she said. “Some people are donating their vintage clothing to us after the show, which delights us to no end.”