A Special Invitation to Madame Bonaparte's Tea & 1812 Fashion Show


Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte - White Dress
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, François Josephe Kinsoen, circa 1817, MdHs, x.5.72

October 25, 2013

Dear Reader,

Fresh from Paris, Madame Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte cordially requests your presence at the Bonaparte Tea on Sunday, November 10 at 2pm at The Maryland Historical Society.

We will sip on tea and nibble delectable French refreshments, just like Elizabeth did on her many European adventures.

While you're here, Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch will provide you with a rare glimpse at never-before-seen items from the Maryland Historical Society's priceless garment collection.

A 'scandalous dress,' on view for the very first time
For the first (and only) time, you can see two fragile surviving dresses from Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's extensive wardrobe.

One of these dresses, an elegant black lace tunic that she wore over a pink underdress, was received by Elizabeth as a gift from her husband, Jerome Bonaparte.

The other, a daring muslin of the early 19th century, was rumored to be 'backless' and scandalized more conservative-minded women.

Perhaps the most treasured piece we will have on display was actually found in a simple box labeled "Scraps." Inside was a never-before seen silk "bra" or corset, a rare survival of early 19th century fashion. Most likely dating to the period of her marriage (1803-1804), this corset is devoid of boning or any stiffening, showcasing Elizabeth's natural curves and causing quite a stir at society events.

But we won't show you the picture here - you'll have to come and see for yourself on November 10!

Just What Did Elizabeth Do To Set The Gossipmongers Atwitter?

During our afternoon tea, Curator Deutsch will be debunking myths about Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, a true fashion legend.

French Desserts
Delicious Desserts
Baltimore-born Elizabeth Patterson was indeed known as 'the most beautiful woman in 1812 America,' and she was renowned for her sharp wit and celebrated bosom.

Elizabeth wore the latest European fashions - gowns considered risqué by American standards. Personal letters salaciously described her as 'an almost naked woman.'

But how true was this? Using surviving textiles as well as extensive documentation, Deutsch will reveal countless "surprises" and discoveries from the Bonaparte collection.

Curator Deutsch will then take you on a personal through the exhibition, Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy, to discuss the remarkable life and legacy of the woman who wore a wedding gown so small it was said to "fit in a pocket."

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte truly was a woman for the ages. And the power of Elizabeth's fashions took on a mythology of its own -- it set tongues wagging, and they have never stopped.

This should be a fantastic afternoon, and we look forward to seeing you here!

Ticket Prices For Madame Bonaparte's Tea 
Tickets are $40/members; $50/nonmembers. To register please call 410-685-3750 ext. 377 or visit the Maryland Historical Society website. 

Also in November:
Our 2nd Annual 'Fabulous Fashions' of 1812 Show!

On Sunday, November 3 at 2 pm, the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will host the second annual Fabulous Fashions of 1812 Show - and you're invited to join us!

This is an educational event featuring original creations of "Fabulous Fashions" by Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore-based designers Carlous Palmer, Tori Burns, Cat Reinheimer, and Janeen Brown. Even Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte herself, portrayed by actress Rana Kay, will make an appearance!

Carlous Palmer
Original designs by Carlous Palmer
The collections "...will have a more modern take on the time period and less literal in its visual delivery," says Carlous Palmer. Original creations will feature a variety of looks from military-inspired apparel to ethereal gowns with sheer overlays.

This afternoon of fashion, food and fun is partially funded through Baltimore National Heritage Area's 1812 Education Committee. Additional program support is provided by The American Flag Foundation, Baltimore City Public Schools, the Maryland Historical Society, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, and Christopher Schafer Clothier, Baltimore Fashion Alliance BFA.

Ticket Prices For The 'Fabulous Fashions' of 1812 Show
Tickets are $35. To register, visit the MdHS website
Or, call Janet Caslow at 410-241-8693 or e-mail:

See you there!

About The Maryland Historical Society

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (library only) 12 pm-5pm.