Meet the Isabella MacTavish-Fraser Gown

Registration for this event is now closed.

Date: March 14, 2020


Session One: Historical Context of a 1785 Wedding Gown: 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Session Two: Cut and Construction of the Isabella MacTavish-Fraser Gown: 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM

Location: Woodlawn Manor House, 16501 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring, MD 20860

© Simon Lees

Photo used with kind permission.

In the summer of 2019, a team of historical mantua-makers made a close recreation of the famous Isabella MacTavish Fraser wedding gown. The original gown was worn in 1785 and has remained in the family and is owned by Isabella’s great x3 granddaughter.

Rebecca was the team lead for this recreation, and will be joining us in Maryland for two presentations about the original gown. She will present on its history and contexts. She will also describe the cut and construction and how the team recreated it.

Both sessions will share information and details about the original and recreated gown. Each stands alone with similar introductions but will then go off to discuss distinct aspects about the project. You are very welcome to attend one or both!

Session 1 will provide background and context, with information about Isabella MacTavish, her life and her socio-economic position as well as touching on the history of tartan and the cultural symbolism it carried between the end of the Jacobite Risings and the beginning of the Highland Revival. We will then look at the most striking features of the original gown and consider what these suggest about the garment trade in the Scottish Highlands, in particular how this shaped Isabella MacTavish Fraser’s access to, interactions with and consumption of popular fashions of her time. This Session will be attractive for anyone with an interest in Scottish history, in tartan or material culture of the 18th century, whether you are an academic, museum professional or reenactor.

Session 2 will build from Session 1, starting with a brief recap on the history of the gown before delving into the details of the cut and construction and shining a light on the training, skills and techniques of gownmakers in the period. This session is not to be missed if you have a particular interest in how women’s clothing of this period was made and how it was worn.

The re-created gown will be on display and available for audience members to view and touch at the end of each session. Ample time will be included for audience questions and answers.

Presenter: Rebecca Olds of Timesmith Dressmaking

Rebecca Olds is the founder, designer, and dressmaker at Timesmith Dressmaking. She is an independent ‘original practice’ researcher and maker of reconstructed historical clothing of the 18th century. She specializes in the study of women’s garments, underpinnings and millinery of this period and tests her understanding of period construction techniques through re-creation or re-construction of extant objects held in public and private collections. She is currently researching non-elite women’s dress in the Scottish Highlands during the second half of the eighteenth century.

This event offers two sessions, each limited to 30 registrations at $35/ ticket. Tickets for this event are not refundable, but they may be transferred with written notice to in advance. Note: Registration for this event is now closed.

Session One: Historical Context of a 1785 Wedding Gown (10:30 AM to 12:30 PM)

Session Two: Cut and Construction of the Isabella MacTavish-Fraser Gown (1:30 PM to 3:30 PM)

Note: Some students have reported problems with the payment system when registering online. If your registration payment isn’t loading properly, please contact us directly at or through the contact us ( page and let us know so we can help you and confirm your participation.

Registration will be open until February 26, 2020 or the event sells out.

Woodlawn Manor House and Trunk Show

Woodlawn Manor House was constructed in the early 1800s.  Dr. William Palmer and his son Benjamin were the longest property owners from the early 1800s to early 1900s. Francis Scott Key was a visitor when the home also served as a boarding school. In the late 1970s Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission purchased the property from the McKeever family establishing Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park.

The building has handicap-permit-reserved parking, an accessible building entrance, and ADA compliant bathrooms on the ground floor. We will be using the ground floor for all of our activities.

There is one step down into the original kitchen, where the bulk of the trunk show will be hosted. Please find Lisa Neel if you need accommodations to enjoy the trunk show.

Tours of the museum and the other areas of the site will be available for individual purchase during our lunch break.

For more information, please visit:

This event will include a trunk show for browsing throughout the day.  Penny River Costumes and Twins N Needles will be offering a selection of fine goods and materials of interest.

Lunch and Beverages

Lunch will not be provided. Participants will have access to a refrigerator and microwave in our host site.  In addition, there are many restaurants nearby. Please contact us at if you have questions about what will be available. 

A selection of teas and instant coffee will be available all day at no charge. 

Transportation and Parking

The red line Twinbrook metro stop is a 20 minute drive to our location. 

Surface parking is free in the attached parking lot.