The earliest Shakers dressed no differently than their counterparts in the world. The style of dress they adopted early in the 19th century was meant to ensure that Shakers were focused on matters of the spirit rather than the body and ego, and helped to keep everyone in union, feeling as an equal to one another. Yet Shaker clothing was made attractive by the quality of their construction, materials used, and fine finishing details.
This exhibition draws from pieces in the museum’s collection as well as historic photographs to explore the clothing worn by Shaker sisters. Practicality was the first consideration, but beauty mattered too. Clothing items made initially for Shakers’ own use and later for sale, particularly cloaks, proved to have appeal to the women of the world as well.