Programs & Services

The Height of Fashion at Farm & Ranch

Dressed for the Occasion

One of the first things you do in the morning is decide what to wear. The occasion you plan to attend probably influences your decision. Whether you’re headed to a wedding or to the grocery store, clothing sends a message about you to everyone you meet.

In Dressed for the Occasion, a new exhibit at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, you will learn about women’s clothing from the 1870s to the 1930s. The exhibit focuses on clothing worn for everyday as well as special occasions like weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

“The idea for this exhibit began as an underwear exhibit,” said the Museum’s History Curator Leah Tookey. “As we searched our collection, and the collections of some of our sister museums in southern New Mexico, we found many beautiful dresses and artifacts that tell interesting stories about women’s lives during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With all of these discoveries, the exhibit blossomed into this wonderful assemblage.”

This exhibit features a special section on weddings and funerals, as well as a child’s bedroom displaying christening gowns along with period toys and furniture. There is another section displaying the many undergarments that were a part of a woman’s wardrobe and the many items she might have carried in her purse. Dressed for the Occasion also includes an early 20th-century graduation dress, stunning beaded flapper dresses, and more understated clothing from the Great Depression, as well as a children’s interactive component featuring paper dolls.

To properly display the vintage dresses, mannequins with the proper shape and size were needed. Of the 14 in the exhibit, six were carved out of Ethafoam blocks by Museum Collections Manager Holly Radke.

“Dresses were smaller back then, and you can’t use a children’s mannequin because the shape is different,” she explained. “It doesn’t have that hour-glass figure. Plus, this was much more cost-effective.”

The clothing and artifacts from Dressed for the Occasion are from the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum’s collections as well as those from the collections the Silver City Museum, Las Cruces Museum, and the Black Range Museum. The show opened in April 2018 and will continue through March 3, 2019.

Monday–Saturday 9 a.m–5 p.m Sunday, noon–5 p.m The barns close at 4 p.m each day, but visitors may still walk to see the livestock until 5 p.m Adults $5; seniors (60+) $4; children (4–17) $3; active US military and veterans $2; children 3 and under and museum members with card: Free.

The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Part of what makes this museum unique is its demonstrations. Visitors can enjoy watching wool spinning on Tuesdays, sewing and weaving on Wednesday mornings, quilting on Thursday and Friday mornings, blacksmithing on the weekends, and milking every day.

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