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Bertha Pinand (1896-1993)

Born in 1896, Bertha Hopper (nee Pinand) was the youngest of the Van Riper women who called the Van Riper Hopper House “home”. She married Harry Hopper circa 1918, and visited her in-laws until the house was sold in 1922. Later in life, Bertha again visited the Van Riper Hopper House upon its transformation into a museum in 1964. Speaking with one of the museum employees, she recalled "when she visited [the Van Riper-Hopper House] they always had a row of rockers on the porch, where they sat after dinner. She said there were pastures all around, where cows and horses grazed." Her recollections of the house as she knew it in the 1910s have helped us piece together how the Van Riper Hoppers utilized their home for their large family. Being in her late twenties at the dawn of the Jazz Age, Bertha would’ve looked right at home in the playful ca. 1924 springtime frock recently discovered in our collection.

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It’s tempting to say that the radical look of the 1920s directly relates to the political emancipation of women in the United States, with women receiving the right to vote via the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. While the Amendment certainly played a role in the creation of the “flapper” silhouette, design elements we often equate with the 1920s had begun appearing in women's eveningwear and childrenswear as early as 1913--most notably the dropped waist and looser fit of garments.  The need for utilitarian clothing during the First World War only accelerated the broader push for simplicity of design and natural form in womenswear. The result was, as Karina Reddy writes, “a rejection of formality and multiple layers, in favour of comfort and a lighter, more natural effect”

Compared to its predecessors, our ca. 1924 gown seems designed for comfort: made of light white net fabric (most likely meant to be worn over a slip dress), with the fashionable dropped waist and long, tubular silhouette. However, its ornate beaded pattern of pink and white dragonflies and swirls suggest that it wasn’t meant for casual wear. While simplicity ruled the day for casual dress, women’s evening wear often sported ornate decoration, with beads, sequins, and embroidery—all popular choices for adding a little glamor to the ensemble.

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Ladies' and Misses' Spring Dance Frocks, McCall's Magazine, April 1924.

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