Curator’s Corner: Collections from the 1920s

Winnetkan Christine E. Baumann wore this
peach silk flapper dress, c. 1920s. (WHS

By Meagan McChesney, WHS Curator

This summer, the Winnetka Historical Society’s (WHS) annual gala will be held at 5 Indian Hill Road, a historic property that turns 100 this year. Fittingly, the gala will celebrate the 1920s, the decade in which noted architect Reginald D. Johnson designed the house for Thomas H. McInnerney. The house is now owned by the Heneghan family.

To complement the historic setting, WHS will set up a temporary exhibit at the event to showcase some of the fascinating 1920s items from the archives. Here are just a few of the Costume Collection pieces that will be on display.

This peach silk dress is a perfect representation of the ever-popular 1920s flapper dress. The scoop neckline, beaded fringe hem, and velvet rosette detailing make it a particularly stunning example.

The dress was worn by Christine E. Baumann, a longtime Winnetka resident who grew up at 279 Linden Street. Born in 1904, Baumann was a member of the first graduating class of North Shore Country Day School in 1921. Her father, Edgar, was a real estate broker, and Baumann followed in his footsteps. She worked as a broker for Bill’s Realty Inc. in the Village in her 20s, the same time during which she purchased this peach silk flapper dress. By 1939, she and fellow North Shore resident Florence Cook had joined forces to form Baumann-Cook Real Estate Service at 553 Lincoln Avenue.

Records indicate that Christine Baumann stayed on the North Shore for the remainder of her career, moving to Northfield just outside of Winnetka later in life. Her beautiful flapper dress was donated to the Winnetka Historical Society by Edward Baumann in 1988.

Beaded purse with fringe, c. 1920s. (WHS

While WHS now maintains careful records of all donations, detailed recordkeeping wasn’t always common practice for early historical societies. Thus, we occasionally come across items in the collections with little information about where they came from, who owned them, or how they were acquired. Such was the case for this beautiful 1920s beaded purse. The gold frame, delicate chain strap, and beaded fringe detailing were quite popular in the 1920s, and likely would have been worn out on the town with a dress like Christine Baumann’s peach silk flapper style.

Gold silk pumps with Cuban heels, c.
1920s. Perfect for dancing away the evening. (WHS collection)

To complete her outfit, Christine Baumann likely would have worn short-heeled, pointy-toed pumps like this pair from the 1920s.

The understated, yet elegant gold iridescent silk fabric would perfectly complement a beaded flapper style, while the Cuban heels would allow the wearer to comfortably do the Fox Trot or Charleston long into the evening.

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