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Dressing the Women of the
Van Riper-Hopper House

"Fashion, however, is always busy, and is constantly showering her latest inspirations on us."

-Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, Volume 76, Issue 451 (January 1868)

In our research, we have records of at least 19 women who lived in the Van Riper-Hopper House over its 150-year history as a private residence. We rarely have their own words describing their experiences as residents, laborers, mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. Often, we turn to broader sources to trace their lives- wills, census records, church accounts, and more. Objects from the decades in which they lived, however, can give us a more personal look and a sense of their material lives. Clothing is, perhaps, one of the most personal types of objects- a universal experience, but closely tied to an individual.

Here, we connect the ever-shifting fashions of the 19th and 20th centuries with some of the women who lived and worked in the Van Riper-Hopper House. While the clothing items highlighted in this exhibit were not actually owned by Van Riper or Hopper family members, they give a sense of the silhouettes, the fabric patterns, the accessories, and more worn by the countless women who lived in this home. We invite you to imagine with us- think of Mary Ann, walking through the narrow hallways in a crinoline, and how her life was different from Bertha, who wore a less cumbersome drop-waist gown when she visited her in-laws home 60 years later. We may never be able to answer exactly what the personal experience of these women was like, but by understanding how they dressed across the decades, we can get one step closer to their lived experience at the Van Riper-Hopper House.


Click a woman's name to learn more!



Preakness Reformed Church, where many of the Van Riper and Hopper ladies attended church services. Mary Van Riper personally donated funds to the church during her lifetime.



A photograph, ca. 1900, believed to be of Van Riper-Hopper family members.



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The property of Uriah J. Van Riper, including the Van Riper-Hopper House, ca. 1870s- when Anna Banta and her daughters were living onsite. From the "Atlas of Passaic County, New Jersey", accessed through the Library of Congress.



A photograph, ca. 1900, believed to be of Helen and Mame Hopper.




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Helen Hopper, photographed ca. 1920


Hopper family members, photographed ca. 1920-1930



The Hopper siblings and their aunt, Sarah Elizabeth, photographed ca. 1920-1930


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The Van Riper-Hopper House, photographed in 1949 for William Reher's estate appraisal.


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