Fundraising Friday: The Philadelphia Story

It's traditional to end a fashion show with a wedding gown. The FIDM Museum is in the last days of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,400 historic garments and accessories from four centuries. Each Friday, this blog has presented an exquisite piece from the Larson Collection. This is our final Fundraising Friday post, and your last chance to donate to save 400 years of fashion history.

L201113128acWedding Gown
Sharpless and Sons, Philadelphia
c. 1879
Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

This elaborately beaded and pleated wedding gown of brocaded satin has a train and a small padded bustle, both elements of everyday fashion at the time. Matching slippers of silk satin with glass beads have been preserved with the gown. The ensemble was purchased from Sharpless & Sons, a Philadelphia "dry goods" store. Founded by Townsend Sharpless in 1815, it became "T. Sharpless & Son" in 1841, when it relocated to 30-32 South Second Street; the second Sharpless son, Charles, a talented amateur artist, joined the business the following year. At the time, the store was described as a "wholesale ware room, clothes, cassimeres, merinoes, silks and vestings." But Charles transformed the business, working tirelessly "to advance the reputation of Philadelphia as compared with New York and other large cities in the way of Dry Goods trade" and, in the process, becoming "one of the most successful and distinguished merchants in his native city."1 By the time this dress was created, Charles was running the family business in partnership with his own two sons.

SharplessRobert F. Reynolds
Advertisement for T. Sharpless & Sons, South Second Street and Trotter's Alley, Philadelphia
Courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia

The FIDM Museum has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire this rare and beautiful piece–and many more like it–before the Larson Collection is dispersed forever or sold into private hands, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. But we still need your help to save the Larson Collection! Please make a contribution online or by mail, or join our #4for400 social media campaign to donate $4 (or more) by texting "Museum" to 243725. Donations are tax deductible; if your company or organization has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. You can also help by spreading the word on social media, using the #4for400 hashtag. The FIDM Museum has until the end  2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so please join the campaign and help save 400 years of fashion history!

1Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania (New York: Atlantic Publishing & Engraving, 1890) II.272.

Leave a Reply