Upstairs Front Hall
In this vignette, we get to experience a display of evening wear dating from around 1900. Notice the elegant white opera cape that once belonged to Kent resident Agnes Leeds Blake, loaned by her granddaughter Ky Anderson. The tuxedo and top hat belonged to Mr. Blake. On the north and south walls of the hallway is a pair of portraits by Laurence Nelson, one a portrait of himself in his tuxedo, and the other, his wife, Helen, in a black dress holding a large red feather fan. The nighttime skyline of Manhattan is visible in the background of both portraits.
According to fashion historian James Laver, clothing serves three purposes: utilitarian ( it keeps you warm, it keeps you dry), hierarchy (it announces your rank or wealth or social class, or professional position ), or for attraction (procreation of the species, “getting the guy”). Thorstein Veblen wrote in The Theory of the Leisure Class “dressing for status as an outward expression of wealth is indeed functional, by the very fact that such clothes prevent the wearer from engaging in manual labor. Also because of their restrictive design they need the assistance of others to dress the wearer and keep clothes in pristine condition.” In other words, you couldn’t bend over to do any housework and you had at least one maid, so people could tell at a glance that you were wealthy.