Current Exhibitions

All exhibitions are included with general admission.

Opens Thursday, July 20
The Changing Silhouette of 19th Century Fashion: The Decade of the 1830s
Day Dress, 1830-1835
The Tredwell Costume Collection comprises more than 400 articles of clothing. The core of the collection consists of 39 dresses documented to have been owned and worn by the women of the family. The Changing Silhouette of 19th Century Fashion is a changing exhibition featuring Tredwell dresses from the decades of the 19th century. These dresses show the changing silhouette of fashion over 100 years, and tell us about the women who wore them and the society in which they lived. 

The 1830s heralded a dramatic shift in fashion from the Empire style popular in the 18th century. The Empire style, which became fashionable after the French Revolution, favored simple lines and a high waistline, resulting in a straight, narrow silhouette. By 1830, a new silhouette appeared with wider shoulders, larger sleeves, and a fuller skirt. The early part of the decade was characterized by exaggerated elements of dress, for example, enormous sleeves and wider necklines and became more subdued as the decade progressed.

Second in the series is a white linen day dress with large leg-o-mutton sleeves and a full, gathered skirt. Intended for wear during the day, this dress would have been worn with a chemisette to fill in the low neckline. With its tiny waistband measuring 21 inches, the dress was no doubt made for a young, or very slender, woman.


Thursday, April 27, thorough Monday, September 25
When Women’s Work Was Needlework

Like other women of their class, Eliza Tredwell and her daughters were adept at plain, and fancy, sewing, much of which was accomplished together with female friends and relatives.

The Merchant’s House Museum costume and textile collections include hand-crafted, as well as mass-produced items. This exhibition focuses on examples likely have been made by the inhabitants of this household, including embroidery, knit and crochet doilies, and other textiles made by hand. Tredwell needlework tools will also be on display.

Thursday, April 6, through Monday, September 25
“With All the Frills Upon It:” Hats from the Tredwell Collection
In the 19th century, millinery was an art and the hat the focal point of every fashionable ensemble. A collection of hats worn by the Tredwell women will be on display, perhaps some adorned for Fifth Avenue’s Easter Parade, which began in the 1880s. Hats of silk, felt, straw, and horsehair, adorned with feathers, lace, ribbons and beads, evoke an era when women never left home without it – their hat that is. And they frequently wore head covering indoors, as well.



What’s in the Blue Box?
The Museum’s collection of the Tredwell family’s original possessions comprises almost 3,000 objects: furnishings, decorations, lighting devices, household, personal and sewing accessories, family photographs, books, ephemera, works of art, costumes, and textiles. Taken together, they provide an intimate, authentic look at the domestic life of this 19th century New York merchant-class family.

Smaller objects not on display are stored in archival “blue boxes” in a storage room on the fourth floor. A single box often contains objects spanning the Tredwells’ entire 98-year residency on Fourth Street. On display, the contents of one blue storage box, including items never before displayed.

At the Tredwells’ Table: Highlights from the Collection
On display are china and glassware spanning the Tredwell family’s almost 100 year residence in the house. Included is a partial luncheon service by American silvermaker Wm. Rogers in the “Oval Thread” pattern, dating from 1847-1872. The set, engraved “E.T.,” is believed to have been given to Elizabeth Tredwell, the eldest Tredwell daughter, shortly after her marriage in 1845.
Included with regular admission.

Exhibitions are part of a series of 2017-2018 education programs,
The Women of Fourth Street and A Century of Change: 1835-1933.