Shipwrecks and Style

IMG_0028The Centerville Historical Museum is hosting some fabulous exhibits until the end of the year. “A Slice of the 60s” is a tribute to the fashion statements from that era, from the mod styles of Twiggy, to the later hippie styles. The exhibit features colorful, stylin’ outfits, accompanied by a timeline of events and people that contributed to the 60s culture and style. Mod means modern, and it has its roots in the London music scene of the late 1950s and early 60s. The mini skirt was born, a scandalous article of clothing for the fact that it was worn above the knees (originally, the mini meant any skirt that was 8 inches above the knee). You can see examples of mini skirts and mini dresses with bright, flowery prints iconic of that time period. Then we have suits and pillbox hats made popular by Jackie O, leading right up to the more laid back hippie style of the late ‘60s, which has its roots in the west coast of the US; some say more specifically, in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco. The mannequin in the museum wears bell-bottom jeans, a flowery blouse, flowery headband, and John Lennon sunglasses.

This colorful display can be seen on the ground floor of the museum, along with an exhibit of handbags entitled “Fashion is in the Bag.” The exhibit explores the handbag, or purse, or clutch; over a period of time in its evolution and function as women’s roles and places in society changed.

IMG_0033And being on Cape Cod, how could we not have a section in the fashion arena regarding the evolution of the bikini! “Bloomers to Bikinis” features just that. You can see mannequins wearing the swimming styles of the early 1900s, which covered up mostly everything, to the evolution of the two-piece, right up to the bikini styles of the last few decades, featuring Sports Illustrated covers with Cheryl Tiegs, and most recently, Beyonce.

“The Dress” is a unique exhibit in its own separate room. You have to see this exhibit to appreciate its uniqueness. The dress is a long, blue gown from the 1920s, designed by Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny. Fortuny was known for his artistry in blending colors to create unique textiles. You can see the actual dress on display, with a hanging portrait next to it of a woman wearing the dress, which once belonged to a woman in Centerville named Mrs. Ayling.

On the walls in this room are featured various prints, which at first I took to be of different textile designs, but they are actually very close up shots of different parts of the fabric on the dress, shot by photographer, Alan Trugman. Very cool!

This man's job was to walk the beach and watch the ocean for possible shipwrecks.

This man’s job was to walk the beach and watch the ocean for possible shipwrecks.

So what does all this have to do with shipwrecks? Head downstairs and you will see an entire room dedicated to the study of shipwrecks off Cape Cod. Entitled, “Shipwrecks: Mystery – Murder – Misery,” this exhibit features scholarship on ten different Cape Cod shipwrecks in the last hundred and fifty years. It focuses on ten well-known maritime disasters, having utilized personal diaries and letters; photographs; and log books to piece together their stories. Included in this series are the Andrea Doria; the Sparrow Hawk; and the Pendleton, on which Cape Cod’s own Casey Sherman and co-author Michael Tougias based their book, the Finest Hours.

If you happen to be driving around Centerville, stop off at the Centerville Historical Museum at 513 Main Street. Randy Hoel, the museum’s director of over ten years, and Gail Vincent, a volunteer, will be happy to bring you on this journey. Admission is $7.00 ($6.00 for seniors).

And let me know what you think, in the comments!

Freelance Writer PhotoMarina Davalos is a freelance writer and native Cape Codder who lives in Centerville with her dog, Hanita, and her cat, Elsa. She lived on Maui on and off for 15 years and has traveled the world. She can be reached at

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