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History's fashion trends take the runway in this museum exhibit finale
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A special exhibit of “The Fadeless Photographer: The N.C. White Studio Collection” is on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville. The final installation, entitled “Fashion Through the Decades,” features vintage clothing, accessories and portrait photography of Gainesville residents from the late 1800s to early 1900s. - photo by Taniya Pierce

A timeline of garments and accessories showcases the history of fashion trends in Gainesville.

The fourth and final theme of “The Fadeless Photographer: The N.C White Studio Collection” highlights fashion trends from the last 70 years inside the Northeast Georgia History Center.

The installment, entitled “Fashion Through the Decades,” showcases vintage clothing, timeless accessories and portrait photographs of Gainesville residents from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s taken by photographers N.C. White and N.C. White Jr.

The exhibit took nearly a year to curate, according to the history center’s collections and archives manager Lesley Jones. 

The exhibit’s nine garments were selected from the history center’s own archives and donated by local organizations and residents.

A stroll through the gallery brings viewers to a visual timeline of dressed mannequins starting with a 1880s black double-breasted wool gentleman’s dress coat, followed by a 1890s black mourning day dress. 

During this time period, fashion was used to indicate one’s social status among other elites, according to the history center.

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An 1880s gentleman’s dress coat and 1890s women’s mourning day dress are two garments in the timeline of fashion trends on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center as part of the museum’s special exhibit, “Fashion Through the Decades.” - photo by Taniya Pierce

Next on display is a 1910s white sheer lace wedding dress, with a lace trim bodice and sleeves.  In that era, wedding attire, “was based on mainstream fashion during this period and continued to be worn as a formal dress following the nuptials,” according to exhibit signage.

Twenty years later, a homemade ruffled tea length floral dress from the 1930s illustrated a time following the Great Depression in which fabrics were used to inexpensively recreate clothing worn by the upper class. The skirt is taken in at the waist and is made of three levels at the bottom of the hem, suggesting the dress is “homemade,” as “off-the-shelf” garments from the era would not require as much fabric for the trim, the history center noted.

Bold patterns were also introduced during this time, according to the history center, and shorter ties became the style with high-waisted trousers.

In the next room over, visitors will find a gallery wall filled with portraits of fashionable individuals captured by the Whites.

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Photos of fashionable individuals captured by Gainesville photographers N.C. White and N.C. White Jr. cover a gallery wall inside the Northeast Georgia History Center as part of the museum’s special exhibit, “Fashion Through the Decades.” - photo by Taniya Pierce

With the exception of those identified in a ledger spanning 1918-1920, the majority of the Whites’ subjects remain unidentified. Numbers are placed next to each of the portraits on display in hopes that a viewer may recognize and identify them.

“I wanted to create an exhibit so people could learn about (White) and see his amazing work,” Jones said. “(White’s studio) was on the square, so he had to be good, but nobody knew who he was,” she said. “I thought if we show his work, maybe people would see how important he was to Gainesville history.”

Past exhibit themes include diversity, siblings and military portraiture.

Jones described the collection as “70 years’ worth of family memories” and hopes viewers gain a better sense of Gainesville history through the lens of N.C White.

“I just want them to see what I see: true Gainesville history,” Jones said. 

“Fashion Through the Decades” is slated to be on display through December. 

For more information and admission details, visit negahc.org/visit.
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Vintage footwear is part of “Fashion Through the Decades,” an installation of the larger “Fadeless Photographer: The N.C. White Studio Collection” on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville. - photo by Taniya Pierce
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A pair of 1940s Adolf snakeskin opera glasses with an original leather pouch are pictured alongside a wooden brise fan from the late 1800s as part of the special exhibit “Fashion Through the Decades” on display at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville. - photo by Taniya Pierce