Fashion Bytes

Many of you will have heard about the recent auction where an original zoot suit sold for a total of $78,000, as reported by Forbes and many others. It is fairly well known that original zoot suits are extremely rare. For such an iconic style which was extensively photographed (you can even see the women’s version over at Minh-Ha T. Pham’s Tumblr, Of Another Fashion), there are surprisingly few pieces in museum collections or even known to scholars as being part of private collections. Many of those photos could be seen in Rachel Harris’s review of Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style for Worn Through back in June.

What do you think are the reasons for the rarity of the zoot suit? Why is there so little knowledge of surviving garments? Is it a reflection of society’s negligence as regards Mexican American history and culture, and the ignorance of the history and culture of most minority groups in the United States — particularly California, in this case? Is it a reaction by the community to protect their own culture?

What effect do you think this particular auction is going to have on and for museums and private collectors? Has it set a precedent for zoot suit values and prices? Will it impact the price and values of other garments and textiles as well? Do you think this will increase the value laypeople place on historical garments and textiles, or increase their interest in fashion history?

Please share your thoughts.

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