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What did Rosie the Riveter Wear at the End of World War II?

Hats, Shoes and More from Richmond's History

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    Richmond Accessorizes with New Museum Exhibit (Published Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016)

    The Richmond Museum of History is opening a new exhibit all about fashion accessories from the last 100 years.

    Museum director Melinda McCrary said not to expect jewel-encrusted pins or high-end designers.

    "Richmond is a very working class town," she said. "You are going to see some really wonderful objects that normal everyday folks would have worn."

    The pieces on display were all donated to the museum by Richmond residents or their families, and each has a connection to the city, like the 1956 letterman's varsity jacket from a 1957 graduate of Richmond High School.

    The highlight of the exhibit is a parasol that combines a store-bought umbrella with early plastics and hand-applied lace from a kit.

    "She's looking beautiful for 100 years old," McCrary said affectionately. "I have to say I hope I look this good when I'm 100."

    One display features men's accessories from the 20s when gentlemen wore stiff collars and bowler hats.

    There's also a collection of burgundy ties, ladies' hats in a rainbow of colors, and shoes from many decades. McCrary's favorite are a pair of green platforms from the late 40s.

    "Shoes were rationed during WWII. You could only have a certain number of shoes so they were often very utilitarian," she said. "I can just imagine Rosie the Riveter wearing these after the War was over. She turned in her work boots for a pair of green platform heels."

    The Whiting and Davis metal mesh purses would still compliment many contemporary outfits. But they wouldn't fit an iPhone.

    Still, the museum's summer intern, De Anza High School student Camryn Wilson can imagine wearing one on her wrist. To her, the colorful purses are like the Louis Vuitton bags of today.

    She couldn't quite imagine wearing one of the pillbox hats that she helped prepare for exhibit, but she would definitely try the blue rhinestone-studded hair comb in her curly short hair if she were allowed.

    "I would stick it like, on the side. See how I have a bobby pin here?" she explained.

    McCrary said visitors are invited to bring photos of themselves or a family member in a favorite outfit or wearing a special pair of shoes or scarf, to add it to the community gallery wall.

    "We want those stories from ordinary everyday people. We'd love to see some materials from the 80s and the 90s as well," she said.

    Accessories, Accessories, Accessories! on August 7, 2016 – December 23, 2016.

    Contact Raquel Maria Dillon: raquel.dillon@nbcuni.com and @RaquelMDillon