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Curator to describe Joseph Smith-era clothing in BYU exhibit

“The Authentic Clothing of the Joseph Smith Period” at Joseph Smith Building

Carma de Jong Anderson, director of the Costume Institute of Utah, will explain her new exhibit, “The Authentic Clothing of the Joseph Smith Period,” located in Brigham Young University’s Joseph Smith Building at select dates and times through the end of December.

Anderson will describe the exhibition’s clothing Monday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. for Family Night; Thursday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 9, at noon; and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m. The exhibit is available from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, and admission is free.

“I will be discussing what is in the exhibit and why early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wore the clothes the mannequins are wearing in this exhibit,” Anderson said. “Both the elegant and poor are represented in this display.”

This exhibit, created for the recent Sperry Symposium on the Scriptures commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, features 11 mannequins with full clothing and accessories of the time of 1805-1845.

The exhibit is based on Anderson’s 42 years of research in clothing museums in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to find out what pioneers really wore.

Amidst the caps, shawls, stocking and bonnets, a Kashmir wool shawl with paisley designs was a popular and expensive clothing item imported from India in the early 1800s. Silk in many different forms was prevalent in the 1830s and 1840s, as well as linen appropriate for hot and humid climates.

Anderson said one of the highlights of the exhibit is a pregnant Lucy Mack Smith from 1805, wearing a puffy bonnet and a narrow yellow dress from the period.

“All clothing is carefully produced to be authentic in color, fiber, weave, pattern and print as well as in the socioeconomic level of each person portrayed,” Anderson said. “The members of the Church need to see authentic clothing, not just made up by artists or home seamstresses.”

A black wool suit with satin vest—reproduced after the minister suit Martin Harris purchased for Joseph Smith in late 1829 so the prophet could look like a credible minister—is on display. This suit was worn by the actor who played Joseph Smith in the an upcoming film on the prophet’s life.

A cotton gingham plaid dress also used in the movie is on the mannequin of Jane Manning, a black woman who walked 800 miles with her family and friends to be with the prophet in Nauvoo.

The mannequin of Jane Manning is standing by a table where the Prophet Joseph Smith is seated. The prophet mannequin is not faceless like the others; he was created in the likeness of Joseph Smith by the LDS Exhibits Department for the Vermont Visitor’s Center ten years ago. The mannequin is unique as the first depiction of Joseph Smith wearing all linen, which he wore six to nine months out of the years he lived in hot and humid states—New York, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois.

After finishing her studies in art at BYU, Harvard, the University of California and the College of Southern Utah, Anderson taught literature, costume, art and sewing at BYU for nine years. After 40 years of fashion shows and exhibits, she said this will be her last exhibit.

For more information about Anderson’s exhibit or to book small group tours, e-mail her at carmacostume@yahoo.com or call (801) 221-1783.

Writer: Angela Fischer

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