Harkin Store explores fashions of the past

Staff photo by Gage Cureton Pictured from left to right, Patty Low, Lorna Runck, Katherine Kragh, Carl Kragh, Sarah Geraghty, Timothy Geraghty and Kevin Geraghty at the Harkin Store Sunday. Low, far left, said she and other members of the Historic Recreation Society often don’t smile when taking photos in historic attire because people seen in older pictures don’t either. “We’re having fun,” Low said. “I promise.”

WEST NEWTON — The Harkin Store explored the clothing and fashion trends of the 1870s during its Sunday programming at the historic site in West Newton Sunday.

On display was a collection of mid- to late-1800s style dresses, including the clothing belonging to Elizabeth Harkin Russell, the daughter of original Harkin Store owner Alexander Harkin, and even an original late 1800s child’s kilt.

The kilt, purchased by Harkin in 1894 in Scotland, has passed from generation to generation within the Harkin family and his descendants.

Janet Russell, Alexander Harkin’s great-great-granddaughter, said she’s tracked the kilt’s history and found that nearly every child within the family has taken a photo while wearing the kilt since 1894. She said the family has made the kilt photo-op a lasting tradition and she estimates nearly 60 children have worn it at some point.

Members of the Historic Recreation Society, a group of individuals that dress up in historical clothing, payed the Harkin Store a visit on Sunday as well. The St. Paul based group often holds or attends historical events where members dress in attire matching a particular time frame.

Katerine Kragh, a member of the Historic Recreation Society, said the Victorian period, lasting roughly 60 years from the 1840s to 1901, saw a lot of change in fashion trends.

“There was quite a bit of change in there from the big hoop skirts, to the bustles, to just the natural form and to the straight mutton sleeves with the straight skirts,” she said. “It migrated quite a bit.”

Carl Kragh, Katherine’s husband, said people of the period — particularly people within upper society groups — liked to stay up to date on fashion trends. He said this helped instigate changing fashion trends as well.

“Part of that was the invention of the readywear fashion,” Carl said. “They had all these fashion plates and posters that would come out and show you what’s hot this year. There was an incentive to find something new and different.”

Katherine said she sews and creates all of the historical outfits for Carl and herself. Compared to clothing fabics used today, she said the natural wools and cottons used in the clothes of old are of higher quality and durability.

“It’s difficult to find cloth of the quality that was made back then,” she said.

Sarah Geraghty, another member of the Historic Recreation Society, said being apart of the group not only allows for the opportunity to learn about aspects of historical clothing, but also to practice trends that have shifted away from contemporary society.

“It’s a hobby of ours. It’s fun to learn about the different layers and why they wore them,” she said. “It’s a chance to play at being formally dressed and going and doing elegant things. People mostly don’t do that much anymore.”

The Harkin Store is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (65 or older) and college students, veterans, or active military, and $4 for children ages five to 17. Children ages four or younger or Minnesota Historical Society members are free.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.