On November 7, I was privileged to be able to attend a program set up by the Western Region of the Costume Society of America for a special behind the scenes look at the current exhibition at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles: High Style: Betsey Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture.
Photo: Christina Johnson (Collection Manager, FIDM Museum); Shelly Foote (Programs Chair WR-CSA); Kevin Jones (Curator, FIDM Museum); JoAnn Staab (President, WR-CSA)
This was a unique opportunity to see a lecture by Christina Johnson on the behind the scenes aspects of putting the exhibition together and the research involved. Carolyn Jamerson, the FIDM Museum Study Collection Manger gave a wonderfully insightful presentation (one could almost call it a workshop) on invisible mounts and mannequins. Her lecture included a supply list handout, as well as what amounted to a small booklet on the step-by-step process she used. Carolyn also included example materials, that were passed around. Attendees were left clamoring for more after her presentation.
Photo: Carolyn Jamerson, FIDM Museum Study Collection Manager and program attendees looking at an invisible mount in process
One of the very best parts of the CSA program, was getting to watch the world premiere of the documentary that the Museum created especially for the exhibition. It plays in the galleries, but is not available for sale (many in attendance were anxious to purchase it). Just this week, FIDM Museums blog posted a small sample of the documentary. It is about 10 minutes long and features oritinal interviews with Betsy Bloomingdale, Marc Bohan (of Dior), Hubert de Givenchy, James Galanos, and Oscar de la Renta (among others).
Following the documentary, attendees went down to the galleries for a tour of the exhibition led by Curator Kevin Jones. This was a phenomenal experience, whereby, we got stories associated with many of the dresses. Of one dress, Kevin noted, that it arrived from Ms. Bloomingdale with a small packet of Air Force One cigarettes (Ms. Bloomingdale was a close friend of Nancy Reagan and attended the inauguration).
Photo: Christina Johnson, Betsy Bloomingdale, Barbara Bundy, and Kevin Jones showing Ms. Bloomingdale the catalog of the show for the first time.
Some exciting news that came out of this program, was the fact that FIDM Museum has begun to produce catalogs for many of their fashion exhibits, and plan to continue to do this under the FIDM Museum Press umbrella. Unfortunately, the distribution of the catalog is limited and is only available online through the Museum Shop at FIDM. It is not available at Amazon, or other online retailers.
For more on the exhibition, including more photographs (I was not able to take pictures in the galleries), See the FIDM Museum blog’s post on the exhibition opening. The Wall Street Journal also has some good coverage, and a slide show.
Those interested in attending future programs from the Western Region of CSA, watch for information on their programs website. Upcoming programs involving showgirl costumes in Las Vegas, NV; Amish quilts in San Francisco; and historical patternmaking in Seattle Washington, among many others throughout the western region (details are available here). To receive regular updates on CSA programs, please consider joining.
*If you’re looking for more video of Ms. Bloomingdale and her collection, she was also featured in a BBC documentary on the Secret World of Haute Couture.