Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Kate
Kate, front
Kate, side
1
2
Kate has an Armand Marseille bisque head with brown hair and brown eyes. She is
wearing a green taffeta striped afternoon gown with a cream lace jabot and
collar. To accompany this, she has brown velvet slippers, and in her hair, she wears
a tortoise-shell comb with green brilliants. Her entire costume was adopted from a
Peterson's Magazine piece called "Costume Through the Ages" by Mary Evans.
For modern people, it is sometimes hard to understand what is meant by an afternoon
gown, or a morning gown (which has less to do with the time of day than one might
think). This had to do with the frequent changes of apparel that fashionable ladies
made during the day. The morning gown or dress was usually fashionable but fairly
plain since it was worn at home during the time set aside for household and domestic
duties. It should be remembered that this didn't involve any manual labor, all of which
was done by servants, but was done in the privacy of the house and involved tasks like
overseeing the servants, making up dinner menus, keeping household accounts, etc.
An afternoon gown like this one was intended for what were misleadingly called
"morning calls". These were actually social visits made between three and four p.m.
They were supposed to last exactly fifteen minutes and were usually intended for the
exchange of calling cards so that one got on the guest list for a given hostess's events
and activities. Visits later in the day, usually after four or five o'clock, were less formal
and might last a bit longer. Dinner in fashionable houses was usually at eight or eight-thirty
and for that, more formal dining dresses were worn. Should the evening's activities also
include the theatre or a dinner party elsewhere, a woman donned an evening gown. If a
ball was scheduled for later in the evening, then she chose a ball gown which
she wore both for dining and the dancing that followed. Women also had separate
walking dresses, which were usually worn for shopping excursions or to attend
various sports. And there were specific dresses for specific occasions, such as
tea dresses for tea parties (these were actually the most comfortable, since
they were usually all-women affairs and did not demand the wearing of a corset).
If on a four-day country home visit, as many women in plantation country
frequently were, she would not consider it appropriate to wear the same costume
twice, so would need a minimum of sixteen separate costumes. Kate has a rather
unusual headpiece and there is no information on it in the notes, nor have I
found anything similar in the books on fashion that Ive checked.



Kate Chopin (1850 - 1904)



Kate Chopin would certainly need all of those outfits. Probably the best-known
of all female Louisiana writers, if not all Louisiana writers period, her
novels, particularly The Awakening, is taught in most school systems. She
has had a recent revival as her works frequently echo feminist concerns; one
commentator describes her as "a pioneer in her own time, in her portrayal of
women's desires of independence and control of their own sexuality".



Kate was born Katherine O'Flaherty on February 8, 1851, in St. Louis, Missouri,
the daughter of Thomas O'Flaherty, a successful businessman who had emigrated
from County Galway, Ireland, and Eliza Faris, a member of the French community
in St. Louis. In 1807, at the age of nineteen, she married Oscar Chopin and
settled in New Orleans. Oscar was born into a well-to-do cotton-growing family
in Louisiana, but had little business sense of his own. While he ran his cotton
brokerage into the ground, Kate was giving birth to the six children she would
have by age twenty-eight, five boys and one girl. Shortly after her last child
was born, the family had to relocate to Cloutierville, Louisiana, south of
Natchitoches, to manage several small plantations and a general store when
Oscar's first business failed. They became active in the local community where
Kate absorbed much of the material for her future writing efforts, especially
those regarding Creole culture. When Oscar died in 1882 of swamp fever (probably
yellow fever), he left Kate $12,000 in debt (the equivalent of $229,360 in
2005). Kate attempted to manage the plantations alone, but without success; she
also had an affair with a married farmer. Two years later, she sold what was
left and moved to her mother's in St. Louis. The next year, her mother
died.



Severely depressed after this, Kate received a suggestion from her obstetrician
and family friend, Dr. Frederick Kolbenheyer, that she focus on her writing as a
therapy as well as potential income. She was successful almost immediately and
placed many of her short stories with literary magazines, including the
important yet scandalous for its time "Desiree's Baby", a story about
miscegenation. "The Story of an Hour" and "The Storm" also proved quite popular
and began to secure her literary reputation. Her first novel At Fault was
published in 1891. Some of her writing was too far ahead of its time, however,
and caused her social ostracism, including her best-known and finest novel,
The Awakening (1899). After that, she retreated from the world, producing
no more major works and dying of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1904.