An elaborate four-piece silk dress from 1870 is on display...

An elaborate four-piece silk dress from 1870 is on display at the Costume and & Culture exhibit at the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, Port Washington. Credit: Jonah Markowitz

As the hemlines on women’s clothing were lifted and the tightness of their corsets loosened, the social and political landscape of the United States of America changed, too. The “Costume & Culture” exhibit at the Sands-Willets House at the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, which will remain on display through February, features garments from the 1700s to the 1970s in the context of their historical contributions. Many of the displayed items are on loan from local residents – and some from Hollywood sets.

Here is a sampling from the several dozen standout designs on display:


The oldest men’s clothing company in the United States (and the exhibit’s sponsor) was founded in 1818 by Henry Sands Brooks. The brand is well-known for its fashion contributions including the seersucker suit, the sack suit (highlighted by a straight, loosefitting jacket), the oxford cloth button-down shirt and the repp tie, says exhibit curator Joan DeMeo Lager.

See a replica of the coat Abraham Lincoln, a loyal Brooks Brothers customer, was gifted by the company and wore to his second inauguration. Its lining is made of black silk twill and features a quilted eagle with two banners that read: “One Country, One Destiny.” On April 15, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while wearing the coat.


See two outfits from the 2013 film “The Great Gatsby” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which were made by Brooks Brothers. The daywear look — a three-button navy blazer with pinstripes, a pale pink shirt, striped tie and straw boater hat — would have been suitable for Jay Gatsby to wear to Daisy Buchanan’s house for tea. The evening outfit — a formal black tuxedo with a cutaway jacket, silk lapels and buttons, white bow tie and formal patent leather ankle button boots — was standard attire at Gatsby’s lavish parties in the film.

Jonah Markowitz

Jonah Markowitz Credit: Jonah Markowitz


Some of the earliest incarnations of lingerie and undergarments from the 1700s to the early 1900s resemble today’s sleepwear. The 1920s however, introduced a new concept for lingerie: comfort instead of restriction. There has been a resurgence of this 1920s flat lace brassiere in recent years. Not so popular? These loosefitting lace knickers. The brassiere and knickers were worn as undergarments.


Popular in the 1800s, they were designed in Europe and sent to American women — particularly their dressmakers and tailors — to reflect the styles that were currently in fashion, Lager says. On display is an 1860s doll in a bustle skirt wearing undergarments of the time -- open pantalets. The other doll on exhibit, a Quaker doll from the 1830s to ’40s, was sent from Ireland to a local family.


The process of saying yes to the dress for brides of the 1900s was far less stressful than is arguably the case in 2015. Local bride Jeanne Rosenthal’s bohemian bridal gown from her 1974 nuptials is on display for its earthiness. Rosenthal, a Port Washington resident, wore the flowered cotton dress which features a trimmed bodice, square neck and long wide sleeves with cotton lace to her Kings Point wedding. The design is indicative of the culture of ’60s and ’70s brides, many of whom embraced an individualistic approach, Lager says.

Costume & Culture

WHEN | WHERE 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 6 (closed Nov. 28, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2) with guided tours at 12:30 p.m. with pre-registration; The Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, 336 Port Washington Blvd. Appointments recommended.

INFO 516-365-9074,

ADMISSION $15 ($12 ages 12-17)