Public Program, History of Women, Fashion History, Hybrid Event

Only the Clothes On Her Back: Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the 19th Century

Laura F. Edwards, Princeton University, in conversation with Christine Desan, Harvard University

Monday, June 13, 2022, 6:00PM - 7:00PM

This is a hybrid event. The program will begin at 6:00. Register for how you plan to attend below. 

In person, $10 per person fee, no charge for virtual, MHS Members or EBT Cardholders. 

Register to attend in person

Register to attend online

What can dresses, bedlinens, waistcoats, pantaloons, shoes, and kerchiefs tell us about the legal status of the least powerful members of American society? Only the Clothes on Her Back uncovers practices, commonly known then, but now long forgotten, which made textiles a unique form of property that people without rights could own and exchange. Marginalized people used these textiles as currency, credit, and capital, but also as entree into the new republic's economy and governing institutions. Wives wove linen and kept the proceeds, enslaved people traded coats and shoes, and poor people invested in fabrics, which they carefully preserved in trunks. Edwards shows that these stories are about far more than cloth and clothing; they reshape our understanding of law and the economy in America.

Hybrid Event

The program will begin at 6:00.

Masks are now required inside the MHS building. Learn more about our COVID-19 protocols.


The virtual program begins at 6:00 PM and will be hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.