CSA Western and the Haute Couture at FIDM Museum

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).

The Couture Process from FIDM Museum on Vimeo.*

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.

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  • Jo Ann Stabb November 18, 2009 06.35 pm

    Thank you, Heather, for posting these highlights of our recent Costume Society of America – Western Region lecture program and museum tour featuring the fabulous “High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture” exhibition at FIDM – Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising – in Los Angeles. You’ve captured some of the key curators, presenters and views of the exhibition beautifully to share with the world!
    It was another great CSA-WR event…with more coming in the future. For more about CSA-WR activities, go through the national website: costumesocietyamerica.com – click on Western Region.
    Jo Ann Stabb, President CSA-WR

  • Ingrid Mida November 24, 2009 08.13 pm

    How beautifully you captured the highlights of this event. Although I wasn’t there, I felt like I was! The video is fabulous!

  • Heather December 10, 2009 04.14 pm

    The FIDM Museum blog recently posted an in depth discussion of their experiences with fabricating float forms – with lots of photos. Check it:



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