Interview on a Collection and Collecting: Conclusion

And now we have the final installment of my interview (from November 2008) with Christina Johnson, Collection Manager of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. In the last post, Christina talked about acquiring the Mae West Collection. This week, she’ll tell us about the exhibitions currently on view, and planned for the FIDM Museum.

Heather: Now you also mentioned that you might be able to talk about the exhibits you’re planning.

Christina: We have exhibitions planned years in advance, because they take so much time to research. FIDM is very known for the Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition and that is a celebration of Costume Design for the previous years movies. We exhibit all the Oscar nominated movies for best costume. So that’s very exciting and that is the beginning of every year. It’s especially useful for the students at FIDM as so many of them end up in that industry. However, that doesn’t utilize the museum’s collection. So we have started having exhibitions once a year and our most recent was Aesthetes, Bohemians & Craftsmen: Artistic Dress, 1880s-1920s. If you missed the show, we will be producing a catalog soon. We definitely want to start doing more catalogs.

“Aesthetes, Bohemians and Craftsmen: Artistic Dress, 1880s-1920s” May 17-July 3, 2008. FIDM Museum and Galleries. Photo by Brian Sanderson. Copyright FIDM Museum.

“Aesthetes, Bohemians and Craftsmen: Artistic Dress, 1880s-1920s” May 17-July 3, 2008. FIDM Museum and Galleries. Photo by Brian Sanderson. Copyright FIDM Museum.

Opening October 21, 2009 will be “High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture.” Betsy Bloomingdale resides in Los Angeles and was a major couture client in the 1960s through the 1990s. She was on the Iinternational Best Dressed list. She’s amazing. She donated in 1977, the year the museum opened, a number of couture gowns from Dior, Givenchy, YSL, and then again in 1979. More recently, in 1996, she donated another trove of amazing gowns. Mostly she wore Marc Bohan for Dior. She didn’t always go to the fashion shows in Paris, so a book of croquis (fashion drawings) would be sent to her and she would make her selections from there. Those drawings will be included in the exhibit as well. We’re doing a documentary film with her and her favorite designers as well and that will play during the exhibition. We hope that it will explain what the world of Haute couture was like. Couture is experienced by such a select group, and that number is dwindling every year and she was one of the last great clients. Mrs. Bloomingdale has been featured in the BBC documentary Secret World of Haute Couture. In that film you can see exactly how our collection came to us. Each piece has a little personal tag attached to the garment noting the date that she wore it, the jewels she wore with it and any of the undergarments that she wore with it.

Future exhibitions will be Adorned: Two Centuries of Jewelry and Dress 1800-2000. FIDM recently established a jewelry design program and the museum has started collecting jewelry. We just received a 400 piece collection of hairwork jewelry dating from about 1780 to the early 20th century. We are also going to be doing Fabulous: 10 years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions 2000-2010 that will focus on new acquisitions. It’s extremely broad and is going to explain how we acquire new pieces. We’ve gotten some amazing pieces over the last ten years. We want to show them off and allow the costume scholarship community, the FIDM community and the public to see them. We’re also thinking about having a women’s sportswear show, and an undergarments show. It’s an exciting time at the FIDM Museum.

Hairwork bracelet. c. 1870s. Gift of Andrea Tice. FIDM Museum Collection. Copyright FIDM Museum.

Heather: Thank you so much for spending the time to talk to me, and tell me what the Museum has in its collection and its future.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of interviews with Christina. I’ve also just gotten word that the Museum at FIDM plans to start its own blog soon. Once it’s up and running, we’ll be sure to announce it here. If you manage a costume collection that you’d like featured on WT, please feel free to contact us directly.

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