Press Release: Madame Bonaparte Tea & Fashion Show

Contact: Laura Rodini 410-685-3750 Ext. 322

BALTIMORE, October 25, 2013 -- Known as 'the most beautiful woman in 1812 America,' Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was renowned for her sharp wit and celebrated bosom. She wore the latest European fashions -- gowns considered risqué by American standards. Personal letters salaciously described her as 'an almost naked woman.' But just how true were these accounts? On Sunday, November 10 at 2pm, Maryland Historical Society Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch will debunk myths about this fashion legend by offering a rare glimpse at three never-before-seen items from the Maryland Historical Society's priceless garment collection.
Corset at an angle

The event, called The Madame Bonaparte Tea, will feature tea and delectable French refreshments at The Maryland Historical Society. Deutsch is the curatorial force behind the "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy" exhibition. Using surviving textiles as well as extensive documentation, Deutsch will reveal countless "surprises" and discoveries from the Bonaparte collection, such as:
  • In a simple box labeled "Scraps," Deutsch and her staff uncovered a never-before seen silk "bra" or corset, a rare survival of early 19th century fashion. Attendees will be treated to an exclusive "peep show" of sorts, as this corset is publicly seen for the first time. 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.
  • BetsyFour
    A 'scandalous dress,' on view for the very first time

  • Attendees will also have the chance to view two fragile surviving clothing items from Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's extensive wardrobe. One of these, an elegant black lace mantilla, was given to Elizabeth by her husband, Jerome, and treasured by Elizabeth throughout her life.  The other, a daring muslin of the early 19th century, was rumored to be 'backless' and scandalized more conservative-minded women.
Curator Deutsch will then lead participants 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."

After seeing Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte at a party around 1814, Margaret Bayard Smith, wife of the publisher of the National Intelligencer, wrote to her sister "I think it is no harm to speak the truth. [Elizabeth] has made a great noise here, and mobs of boys have crowded around her splendid equipage to see what I hope will not often be seen in this country, an almost naked woman."

Although it may sound like it, this was not Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball, but the power of Elizabeth's fashions took on a mythology of its own. It set tongues wagging and they have never stopped.

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: The 2nd Annual 'Fabulous Fashions of 1812' Show

On Sunday, November 3 at 2 pm, the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) hosts the second annual Fabulous Fashions of 1812 Fashion Show - an educational event featuring original creations by Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore-based designers Carlous Palmer, Tori Burns, Cat Reinheimer, and Janeen Brown. A model of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, portrayed by Rana Kay, will cap off the event.

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

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.

Tickets are $35. To register, visit the Maryland Historical Society website or call Janet Caslow 410- 241-8693, or e-mail

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." Visit

For more information, contact Marketing Director Laura Rodini at 410-685-3750 Ext. 322 or