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Anna Banta (1818-1892)

Like Mary Van Riper, much of what we know about Anna Banta comes from a limited amount of sources. Anna was born to Richard J. Banta and Sarah Goetschius on November 5, 1818--coincidentally the same birthday as her older sister, Ellen. She was eighteen when she married Uriah, the son of Jacob and Mary Van Riper, in 1836. Sadly, Anna's first decade of marriage appears to have been a very difficult time for her. During the 1840s, Anna witnessed the premature deaths of her first three children, two of whom (according to extant death records) passed away within a week of each other in 1848. Her fourth child, Mary Anna (born 1849) would be the first of her children to survive into adulthood. Meanwhile, Anna and Uriah joined the Preakness Reformed Church in 1844. Uriah went on to become involved within Wayne's political scene, which would lead us to believe that Anna would have been involved in the social sphere of Wayne, between entertaining her husband's political guests and her friends from the Preakness Reformed Church.

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Bright colors, bold trims, and an ever-widening bell-shaped skirt defined the fashionable look of the 1850s. "Fashions for London and Paris, July 1855", Victoria and Albert Museum.

At first glance, the fashionable silhouette of the 1850s differed little from that of the previous decade. However, the 1850s marked the return of bright colors and bold trimmings to the wardrobe. Especially with the invention of synthetic dyes in 1856, women could afford to clothe themselves in an array of colors, from the wildly popular "Mauveine" purple to deep shades of alizarine crimson and sapphire blue. Dresses at this time also began to be made with the bodice and skirt separated into two pieces. The bodice and skirt were made of the same material, to give the appearance of being the same dress. Sometimes, a dress skirt could come with two different bodices--one bodice with long-sleeves and high-collar for day wear, the other with a plunging neckline and short sleeves for formal occasions. Other fashionable elements included white collars to accentuate the neck; and wide "pagoda" sleeves on bodices, which opened up to reveal puffed engageantes (removable undersleeves) underneath.

The two ca. 1850 skirts from our collection are decidedly more modest than the loud looks that dominated fashion magazines of the day. This could be a reflection of the wealth of their original wearers, as stylish dresses in bold colors with many trimmings were expensive to produce. Anna may have worn skirts similar to these, along with matching daytime bodices, to various social events held at home or around town. During the first half of a decade, she may have puffed out her skirts with multiple layers of petticoats to achieve the desired bell-shaped skirt. With the advent of the cage crinoline in 1856, however, Anna would've been able to achieve the same look with a much lighter alternative.

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Our skirts may have once been paired with bodices that featured sleeves and trimmings similar to the ca. 1858 dress above. Victoria and Albert Museum.

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