Fashion and Lifestyle Project

Fashion and Lifestyle Project

“Dear Mr. Stibbert, It was most kind of you to think of me and let me take that beautiful book of costumes. The prints are extremely quaint and interesting and may help me out if my dressmaker has not found just what I need. I promise to take the best care of the book and will return it within a week if you do not need it before. With thanks, and hoping to see you at the ball if not before. Believe me most sincerely yours, Hortense M. Acton”Hortense M Acton. “Thank You”. Letter to Frederick Stibbert. 1904. MS. Museo Stibbert Archive, Florence, Italy

This online exhibition explores Hortense and the Acton family’s lifestyle by looking at five of her rare and expensive Callot Soeurs dresses. These French dresses, part of a collection of 21 Callot Soeurs and other haute couture gowns, have been selected to represent different fashion styles between the early 1900s and early 1930s.  They have all belonged to New York University since 1994, when they were bequeathed to the university with the rest of the collection. Harold Acton preserved them in steamer trunks, where they were found in relatively good condition. In 2004, they have been rediscovered, analyzed, photographed and stored in conservation boxes. After a survey and minimal conservation treatment to make them stable for temporary display, five are now presented to the public at Villa La Pietra, Florence. This online exhibition in five rooms of the villa gives visitors the opportunity to look at them closely. As you navigate the website and rooms, try to imagine getting to know Hortense Mitchell Acton through these dresses and accompanying artifacts.

As we move from introducing Hortense through the Rotonda, we suggest you move on to the Salone. There you will discover the cocktail time and enjoy some lively music from the 1920s and 30s. From the Salone, feel free to venture on to the Biblioteca where Hortense kept all of her books and spent her pleasant reading moments. From the many books, postcards, photographs, and letters we can see that Hortense lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle. She loved to travel and learn about other cultures. The next room,  the Saletta delle Grottesche display is a great example of a specific culture Hortense was interested in. From a young age Hortense was fascinated with the Asian world and continued exploring it as she matured.  Going back in time, we end in the Bagno dei Genitori where one can imagine Hortense packing, or rather, unpacking from one of her exciting journeys.

We invite visitors of this website to submit research proposals connected to the exhibition themes.


Behind the scenes