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History’s fabric

Jean Hutchinson of Abbeville wins national award from DAR

Abbevillian Jean Hutchinson has won a national award, a Women in American History Award, from the Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of her talents in making period dress come alive.

Presented with the award on Saturday, March 26, Hutchinson has long been making period dress for lovers of living history, including reenactors in connection with the American Revolution and the Civil War.

“The Fort Sullivan Chapter (of the DAR) in Charleston nominated me,” she said.

The award is perhaps the culmination of an effort, years in the making, to provide a unique window into the past.

“Clothing really tells a story about a culture,” she said Friday.

It is a story she has been telling for a long time. “I’ve been doing living history for about 28 years,” she said. “I’m just a history junkie.”

Hutchinson comes by it naturally, perhaps. She is the daughter of the late May Hutchinson, an Abbevillian whose love of history was matched only by her energy.

May was serious about preserving the history of Abbeville and particularly that of her beloved Trinity Episcopal Church.

Jean, meanwhile, embraces history in a different way. For the items of period dress she makes, she conducts the research, drafts the patterns, and then she actually makes the clothes.

“I sell a lot of them,” she said.

Jean is a “sutler” at a number of reenactment events, such as the Civil War’s Battle of Aiken.

Reenactors wear period dress, as do a number of docents at historic homes, and Jean finds the number of people making use of period dress is quite large. It’s enjoyable as well, Jean will tell you.

“It’s just great fun,” she said.

Born in Charleston, she grew up in that port city, but during her childhood she and her sister Ann would make frequent trips to Abbeville, playing the role of “country kids” for a time.

“Ann and I had so much fun,” she recalled.

Jean has an undergraduate degree from Furman, and a masters in vocational rehabilitation counseling from the University of South Carolina.

Though she has lived most of her life in Charleston, she has recently moved to Abbeville, and lives in the house that her parents called home.

She sold her house in Charleston on Valentine’s Day, and now calls Abbeville home.

“It’s so nice to be here,” she said.

A glowing testimonial

Biographical material from the Daughters of the American Revolution illuminates Jean’s talents.

“Jean began dressmaking at about age eight, outfitting Barbie and other dolls in historically-inspired clothing," according to the DAR.

“As a period dressmaker and living historian, Hutchinson has portrayed a cook, baker, dressmaker, shop keeper, spinner, spy, nun and refugee, and created numerous clothing ensembles for these portrayals.”

Jean is “joyfully retired after having been in private practice as a vocational consultant and expert witness in court,” according to the DAR.

Jean has presented living history programs for the Charleston Museum, Abbeville County Museum, and Sumter County Museum, among others, and has worked with the Charleston Museum in making replicas of women’s clothing from the 1920s and 1930s.

Jean Hutchinson of Abbeville, SC
Jean Hutchinson of Abbeville, SC

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