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Helen Bentley's dresses and hats go on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

Helen Delich Bentley at her desk at the Maritime Commission, wearing a red sleeveless wool dress with matching double-breasted jacket, from around 1969 with a Jeannette Beck Baltimore/New York label (also labeled Barberini).
Helen Delich Bentley at her desk at the Maritime Commission, wearing a red sleeveless wool dress with matching double-breasted jacket, from around 1969 with a Jeannette Beck Baltimore/New York label (also labeled Barberini). (Courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Industry)

Helen Delich Bentley was a former congresswoman, journalist for The Baltimore Sun, fierce advocate for the Baltimore port -- and now a fashion icon.

An exhibit of four of Bentley's dresses and a dozen of her hats will go on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Nov. 4, the same day that a private memorial will be held at the port that now bears her name.

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Some of the items on view include a Jeanette Beck ivory brocade cocktail dress with matching coat from around 1960; a Pauline Trigere moss green and lavender mottled dress from around the same era; and a deep brimmed hat covered with multi-colored feathers from the 1970s and bearing the Adolfo Saks Fifth Avenue label. The display will also feature photos of Bentley wearing the items being exhibited.

Helen Delich Bentley, congresswoman who was a staunch advocate of the port of Baltimore, dies.

The exhibit, which is being curated by museum volunteer Debbie Farthing, runs through April 30, 2017 at the museum, 1415 Key Highway.

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In her will, Bentley left $100,000 to the Museum of Industry -- she was a former trustee -- but her gift came with strings attached. She directed that the museum use it to publish on video or other modern format the television series she hosted on WMAR for many years: "The Port that Built a City and a State."

This 1970s deep brimmed hat covered with multi-colored feathers bears an Adolfo Saks Fifth Avenue label. It was once worn by Helen Bentley and will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
This 1970s deep brimmed hat covered with multi-colored feathers bears an Adolfo Saks Fifth Avenue label. It was once worn by Helen Bentley and will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. (Courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Industry)

Bentley's varied career included writing a syndicated column called "Around the Waterfront" (she was appointed the Sun's first female maritime editor in 1949), six years as chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commision (former President Richard M. Nixon named her to the post in 1969) and five terms as the Republican congresswoman representing Maryland's 2nd District.

She ran for governor in 1994 but lost in the Republican primary.

This 1965 hat covered in fuchsia feathers with a narrow fuchsia velvet band and bow was once worn by Helen Bentley and will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
This 1965 hat covered in fuchsia feathers with a narrow fuchsia velvet band and bow was once worn by Helen Bentley and will be on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. (Courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Industry)

The common thread in her career was her passion for preserving her adopted hometown's port, which came to be named in her honor; the U.S. maritime industry and American manufacturing.

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In addition to the private memorial service in the morning on Nov. 4, the Port of Baltimore is organizing a horn, whistle and cannon salute to Bentley at noon. Two hours later, a public memorial service will be held at Fort McHenry.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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