SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Wittenberg University students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on experiences at The Westcott House in Springfield. Shiloh Aderhold, class of 2008 from Thomasville, N.C., not only participated in the educational experience, she recently completed an unexpected and important collaboration with the museum to replicate a dress originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The project began last spring following a conversation between Aderhold and The Westcott House Foundation Curator of Interpretation Marta Wojcik. During the conversation, Aderhold learned that Wright sometimes designed dresses for his clients. Her student employment at the university’s costume shop, coupled with funding from the foundation and her community service at the museum, provided the necessary resources and background to make the project a reality.
“We were very excited about Shiloh’s project as the dress is very important for us,” Wojcik said. “It’s absolutely beautiful and true to the original.”
Wittenberg’s costume designer and costume shop manager Deborah Henderson, technical assistant for theatre and dance, played a pivotal role in the project.
“Debbie mentored me through the entire process,” said Aderhold, an art major at Wittenberg. “Her support and encouragement were awesome.”
Aderhold began research in April and discovered a total of seven photographs of four different dresses, along with an article published in 1995. She contacted the author to discuss his findings, and she also traveled with Henderson to the Kent State University Museum Costume Shop to compare the designs against others from the turn of the century.
Following her research, Aderhold selected one of the designs from the photographs and began making the pattern.
“Wright designed the dress for the comfort of his first wife, Catherine,” Aderhold said. “She was a large woman, and the designs were in the new form liberating women from corsets.”
Although the funds were provided by The Westcott Foundation, everything had to be ordered and shipped. Aderhold, who coordinated the entire project, also discovered that finding fabric proved to be almost as much of a challenge as waiting for the shipments to arrive.
“The original dress was made from wool challis, which is difficult to find,” Aderhold explained. “I used wool suiting instead.”
After draping the fabric and piecing the garment, Aderhold began constructing the dress in September 2006. Henderson and fellow students working in the costume shop assisted Aderhold in the actual sewing of the dress.
A mannequin was ordered and upon its arrival, the garment quickly became a permanent display in Orpha Westcott’s Room at The Westcott House Museum during the holiday season. The foundation is in the process of creating a panel to add to the exhibit documenting Aderhold’s work.
“The project was quite a challenge,” Wojcik said. “Wright’s children knew he sometimes designed dresses for his clients; he designed a dress for Isabelle Martin whose home he designed in Buffalo, N.Y. Unfortunately, none of his original dresses survive.”
Aderhold has volunteered at The Westcott House since September 2005. Last spring she completed her community service requirement at the museum and trained to become a docent for fall semester. Although currently studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, Aderhold plans to continue as a docent at the museum upon her return.
By: Phyllis Eberts