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Historic Clothing Collection


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Bessie Rodis' wedding gown, ca. 1938
Bessie Rodis' wedding gown, ca. 1938Maine Historical Society

Two late 1930s gowns with virtually the same styling, chosen by two very different women, from two different walks of life, demonstrate the democratic, equalizing nature of modern fashion, as well as the extent of fashion media and movie influence. For her 1938 wedding to her husband to be, Greek immigrant Peter Spanos at Portland’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Bessie Rodis wore a wedding gown made of white rayon satin with machine lace detailing, and featuring and a striking, very wide panel of machine lace inset at the waist.

Of a similar date, Portland’s Mary (Rines) Thompson owned a peach rayon full length georgette evening dress with machine lace detailing and featuring and the same striking very wide panel of machine lace inset at the waist. Mary Rines Thompson's father Henri Rines founded Maine Broadcasting System, which became one of the most powerful communication outfits in its day.

Fair Labor Standard coat, ca. 1938
Fair Labor Standard coat, ca. 1938Maine Historical Society

Rounding out the era, a full length, princess seamed black velvet coat, possibly dating to the late 1930s to early 1940s, with a face encircling collar, long balloon cuffed sleeves, and a frogging closure features a worn label stamped, "The Coat and Suit Industry" encircled with the words "National Recovery Board," indicating the coat was made in accordance with the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. This legislation regulated working age, minimum wage and work conditions.

Coat label, ca. 1938
Coat label, ca. 1938