Kōrero Kākahu: Te Papa Press and a lasting legacy

In my last Kōrero Kākahu post I made reference to the changes that have been happening at the national museum, Te Papa, lately, particularly those brought in by the new CEO Rick Ellis. The post mentioned the scrapping of short-term exhibitions in favour of reinvigorating long-term exhibitions and I pondered what this would mean for the dedicated textiles space in the museum, Eyelights Gallery. These weren’t the only changes mooted by Ellis as curator and biographer Jill Trevelyan revealed to national media that the museum’s publishing arm, Te Papa Press, was in the firing line. Te Papa Press, it must be said, is an extraordinary success for the museum and its publications have won multiple awards, including the prestigious New Zealand Book of the Year awards. What I found most shocking however was what this would mean for New Zealand textiles history and scholarship: if we were to lose both the physical space and the intellectual space, what would remain? Thankfully, this short-sighted idea is on the cutting room floor where it belongs, with great thanks owing to Trevelyan and other arts proponents putting their voices forward to save the Press.

In light of this rollercoaster, I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight one of the stunning publications produced by the Press in the recent past. Whatu Kākahu – Māori Cloaks edited by Te Papa Curator, Awhina Tamarapa, was launched in October 2011 and was beautiful precursor to the Kahu Ora exhibition that opened the following year. For the first time, the storerooms housing Māori textiles were opened and drawer after drawer of cloaks were photographed in enlightening and vibrant ways. In terms of “core museum work”, which is what Ellis claimed he wanted to focus on, having a publication as a lasting record of a successful exhibition is integral to the legacy of an exhibition and without these publications, we don’t get the passing on of expert knowledge in a lasting medium. Books are also portable, they can be taken away with you at the end of an exhibition and supplement the awesome feelings you felt within. They are lasting testaments to the knowledge held by curators and the networks of people that they build up. Mina McKenzie, the first Māori woman director of a museum, is well-known for saying that museums need to “keep taonga warm”, that is, these objects that make up the Māori collection and even the non-Māori museum objects, they need to be surrounded by people, to inspire people, be seen and touched and smelled by people. If museums aren’t doing that, through their exhibitions (and they really should be doing it!), then they need to do it in other ways, through books and online publications. Long live Te Papa Press!

Image from the cover of Whatu Kākahu by Te Papa Press

A note on my column title: Kōrero Kākahu translates very literally from Māori to English as “talk of clothing” but can also be read as the stories gleaned from clothing or the stories that clothing holds. Future columns, particularly those that cover Māori content, may delve into this meaning a little deeper.


CFP: Fashion and the Body

Fashion and the Body

April 29-30, 2016

University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota


As fashion is inescapably tied to the body, the 2016 symposium offers the opportunity to examine the complexities of this inexorable relationship. As we fashion our bodies and our appearances through-out life, so we communicate our adherence to cultural norms and societal expectations for body shape and size. Thus, the body can be viewed as the result of fashion. It is not only body supplements (e.g., clothing, accessories) that are the focus of scholarly attention but also countless modifications and body alterations (e.g., tattooing, piercings) that are practiced and imbued with meaning. Questions addressed can include how modifications are done in addition to why, when, where, and with what purposes. Additional questions include presentations of the body and how they are used to market and sell along with the importance of body image and satisfaction to daily behaviors.

The symposium has an inclusive definition of the term “fashion”. While fashion is often understood to center on apparel choices, fashion can be recognized as the current style or way of behaving in any field. Thus, proposals are welcome from divergent fields such as architecture, anthropology, cultural studies, history, interior design, graphic design, psychology, sociology, and women’s studies among others to examine interconnections and intersections between fashion and gender.

Through a series of scholarly presentations, panel discussions, and design presentations by academics, researchers, graduate students, undergraduates, the symposium participants will explore, define, and document the interconnections between fashion and the body.

Symposium Participation:

You are invited to participate in this symposium by submitting a written abstract detailing research, an abstract of innovative teaching strategy, a design, or a proposal for a panel of speakers addressing some aspect of fashion and the body.. The official conference language is English. All accepted abstract submissions will be published in the conference proceedings.

Symposium formats include poster sessions, design work, concurrent design/research/teaching presentations [15 - 20 minutes], and panel sessions [60 minutes]. Panel or collaborative presentations are encouraged.

Important dates:
January 8, 2016: All proposed submissions for the symposium (designs, abstracts, panels) due and received. Abstracts are in final form (there will be no opportunity for authors to make changes prior to publication in proceedings so please proof and edit carefully).
February 12, 2016: Notice of acceptance emailed to corresponding author and copyright forms sent to corresponding authors for proceedings. Online registration opens.

Click here to read the full Call for Presentations and submission guidelines.


You Should Be Watching: TV Shows Set in Fashion History

In addition to some of the great costume dramas currently airing–Wolf Hall, Outlander, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders–several series in past decades have specifically focused on an aspect of fashion history. Department stores are a popular setting, likely due to the opportunity for a range of characters and interactions. Mr. Selfridge, a recent, successful show in this genre, has been ordered for a fourth season. If you can’t wait until next year for your department store fix, or you just enjoy binge-watching with a little academic analysis thrown in, here are three more fashion-focused shows you might enjoy.

Are You Being Served? 1972-1985

Are You Being Served? is most often descirbed as “quintessentially British,” and its risqué humor and laugh track is part of its charm. The show is set primarily at the fictional London store Grace Brothers, where Men’s Ready-Made shares the floor with the lingerie counter. Served? has more depth than just silly visual gags and awkward workplace dynamics. The creator of the show, Jeremy Lloyd, worked in menswear at the London department store Simpsons of Piccadilly in the 1950s. Lloyd said he included his own experiences in the scripts. The sales associates on Served? glued their pocket handkerchiefs to cardboard and “kneed” jacket sleeves to ease their fit for larger customers, both techniques that Lloyd claimed to have employed himself at Simpsons. The entire series is currently on Youtube.

The House of Eliott 1991-1994

The House of Eliott ‘s first season is set in the early 1920s, when two sisters are left in debt and without support. Talented dressmakers, the women find funding to open a business that becomes a couture house. As with most costume dramas, Eliott approaches soap opera territory by its third season; but the business is the focus of the series, and the writers obviously researched the structure of couture houses of this era. Dramatic subplots involve seamstresses, illustrators, fabrics and the vendeuse, and the fashion shows are a treat. The House of Eliott is available to rent on disc from Netflix, or the entire series can be purchased from Amazon for just $30.

The Paradise 2012-2013

Based on Émile Zola’s The Ladies Paradise, this department store drama is the earliest of the bunch, set in 1875 in Northern England. The protagonist is Denise Lovett, a Scottish woman of modest means who works her way through the ranks at the store with ambition and talent in sales. The show was abruptly canceled after its second season and was said to have lost the ratings contest with Mr. Selfridge, but is nonetheless enjoyable and takes place in a very different era in fashion than Selfridge does. The Paradise is available streaming on Amazon and Google Play.


On Teaching Fashion: An Adult Education.

Recently I have extended my teaching into adult education. A completely new area for me – as I have never had any experience outside of mainstream work. However, now with a few lessons under my belt I now love it, and half the enjoyment is meeting all the different ladies that come to the classes, and their varied reasons for doing so.

Spending my day with 16-18year old students in mainstream education, with qualifications to complete, work to mark and targets to meet, it is very refreshing to teach simply for the joy of passing on skills and seeing how the individual students progress in these classes. It is very rewarding when students in these situations pick up new abilities and skills in a short time frame of the class. My first piece of advice to anyone considering this is to bear in mind what the individual student wants to get out of the session, as some work very fast to learn, learn and learn more, whilst some enjoy the challenge with the social aspect of attending as well. Also, bear in mind, every individual- no matter how old they are, learns in different ways. So be prepared to think on your feet and alter the method of delivery to suit the situation.

Have you any experiences or opinions of the difference in delivery methods from mainstream education to adult interest classes?

I also enjoy when teaching adult learners hearing about their previous knowledge and experiences, which often comes from O-level Dressmaking. (The predecessor qualification to GCSE’s) Recently I was leading a class, and due to time constraints had tailors chalk out, ready to mark the students fabric for their darts. One student said to me that she didn’t think I would know what this was but she would use tailors tacks in that situation. My mum taught me tailors tacks at a young age- and I was delighted to tell this lady that yes I new exactly what they were and that I had some tacking thread in my tool box at the ready!


Tailors Tack

This brings me to think about fashion and dressmaking education today, and why has it changed since the 1970s and beforehand. My mum always tells me about a suit she had to make when she was at school, and unfortunately burning it doing the final pressing the night before her deadline! I also recently looked at the work completed by my Grandmother in her education- a series of beautiful samples of finishes and seams, all neatly pressed, labelled and with perfect precision. Why is this not taught today? Are we loosing the knowledge in education of how to develop a pattern and create a garment? Or is it a matter of lack of attention to detail today?

Sewing, in my opinion, is a life skill, and it should have presence in the national curriculum. I read an interesting article in the  newspaper last year about how celebrities and Hobbycraft were trying to raise awareness of the importance of being able to sew. (Article)  However it is very evident that the 21st century working generation are so used to this throw away, fast fashion, ‘ just buy a new one’ culture- with low price points of clothes and longer days at work, you can not blame them.

What is your opinion about the content of dressmaking education today? How is dressmaking taught in your country? Is it covered at school, or was it phased out?


Fashion-Focused Digital Resources: Highlights from the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music and more. Founded in San Francisco in 1996, the Archive offers permanent access to historical collections in digital format for researchers, scholars, historians and the general public. The Internet Archive is also working hard to preserve a record of the internet through their Wayback Machine and other endeavours.

Every item held by the Internet Archive is available for download in full in various formats. An online library of this size will obviously contain thousands of items of interest to fashion historians, so I have chosen a few highlights from my own browsing history as examples of the enormous potential of this resource.

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1. The Canadian Dry Goods Review & Eaton’s Catalogues

Found within the Canadian Trade Journals Collection provided by the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto and the Toronto Public Library are 35 titles of The Canadian Dry Goods Review. With dates spanning between 1891 and 1922 and each issue numbering in the hundreds of pages, the collection is a tremendous (if sometimes quite dry) resource for any historian researching the clothing and textile industry of Canada at one of its most productive periods. Scrolling through the pages of advertisements for countless importers, manufacturers and retailers based in Toronto, Montreal and beyond is a powerful reminder of the immense scale of an industry now all but lost in Canada.

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The Internet Archive is also home to several fully digitized editions of the Eaton’s Catalogue, representing a Canadian retail and social institution that was once the largest department store retailer in the country. Similar to the Sears Roebuck catalogue in the United States, the Eaton’s catalogue served an important role connecting Canada’s largely rural communities from 1884 onwards.

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2. Le Gazette du Bon Ton & Les Robes de Paul Poiret

Arguably one of the most luxurious and elite fashion publications ever created, Le Gazette du Bon Ton was a pochoir-printed review representing the top French couture houses of the time. Created by Lucien Vogel, the magazine was published from 1912 to 1914 and 1919 to 1925 and featured illustrations by top fashion illustrators, including George Barbier, Erté and Ernesto Thayaht. The Internet Archive holds a nearly complete digitized collection, courtesy of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York.

The Archive also features a digitized copy of Les Robes de Paul Poiret, a similar elite publication of the couturier’s designs, courtesy of the Smithsonian Libraries. Illustrated by Paul Iribe, the album was distributed to Poiret’s elite clientele and depicts the couturier’s famous narrow hobble skirts and Orientalist influences in neoclassical surroundings.

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Have you come across any hidden gems within the depths of the Internet Archive? Let us know in the comments below.


Review: Riviera Style Resort & Swimwear Since 1900, FTM, London

A recent visit to the Regency seaside resort St Leonards on Sea along with a renewed interest in swimming, courtesy of my local lido, meant I just had to start the summer with a visit to the exhibition Riviera Style: Resort & Swimwear Since 1900 at the Fashion and Textile Museum (FTM) in London this week. 


Pyjama suits popular in the 1930s, part of the Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939 section

Billed as a celebration of clothing worn in and by the sea, the exhibition displays a huge range of garments lent by Leicestershire County Council, which is also the county where many of the swimwear manufacturers were based.  As a result, most of the items on display reflect UK and USA manufacturers and tastes. The guest curator is Dr Christine Boydell, a design historian from Leicester’s De Montfort University, who has an interest in twentieth century fashion and was previously involved in the FTM’s 2010 exhibition on Horrockses Fashions as well as the author of Horrockses Fashions’; Off-the-Peg style in the ‘40s and ‘50.

The exhibition is an effort to tell several stories and I think some are told more successfully than others.  The first charts the role of design and production in the developing styles of swimwear during the last century.  The second is the relationship between shifting notions of the fashionable human form and design, while the third is the increasing emphasis on holiday locations, whether they be at home or abroad, for the display of swimwear styles.  While the first and second story are more obvious throughout the exhibition, the third story is less consistently told, and the visitor has to work harder to find the narrative amongst the displays.


Early twentieth century swimwear, 1895 – 1919, opening the exhibition

The exhibition is arranged by the way in which swimwear has attempted to address the human form with the application of textile design and technology during the twentieth century.  This is reflected in a chronological order of display, organised by five sections: Bathing Beauties 1895-1919, Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939, Mould and Control 1940 – 1959, Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 and Second Skin 1990 onwards.  In case you are not familiar with the layout of the FTM, it is essentially one large ground level room that can be divided up into smaller sections, overlooked by a horseshoe shaped mezzanine that provides relatively narrow corridors of exhibition space.  For this exhibition, the first two sections occupy the ground level, where the designers have recreated a fictional lido setting, literally placing the early twentieth century swimwear into a recreational context. The last three sections are to be found upstairs, with increasingly less emphasis on a literal context and more emphasis on the quantity of items on display.


Lido recreated on ground floor for the first two sections of the exhibition

The initial impact of the exhibition is strong as the visitor finds themselves walking past bathers and swimmers enjoying the benefits of a fictional lido. Here, the visitor learns about early twentieth century swimwear, with its shifting emphasis on modesty against the backdrop of increasing demand for seaside holidays.  The visitor sees garments in-situ, whether they are swimsuits for swimming or pyjama suits for lounging by the pool, sipping on an apres-swim cocktail.  The entire lido scene is supported by some beautiful blown up promotional images from the 1930s of resorts in the UK, as well as a range of fantastic prints from British Vogue showing models wearing swimwear in a range of holiday locations.  Literal recreations of places where swimwear might be worn and seen continue upstairs with the third section, which focuses on the relationship between underwear and swimwear.  Here, the curators have displayed the mannequins as if they were taking part in a beauty contest held in a seaside town, each one sporting a rosette with their respective number and placed upon prize giving blocks.

Bathing Beauty Queen context, 1945 - 1989, Morecambe, Lancashire ,UK

Bathing Beauty Queen context, 1945 – 1989, Morecambe, Lancashire ,UK

The immersive approach to the exhibition’s theme is followed through with associated summer songs played through speakers and heard across the entire space, as well as plenty of smaller displays focusing on accessories and some specific events related to the display of swimwear, in particular the Bathing Beauty Queen context held in Morecambe, Lancashire between 1945 – 1989.


Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 section; note popularity of the two piece suit

What I find the FTM does well when it comes to their exhibitions is the sheer number of garments on display, often reflecting a diversity that is just not possible to see in more permanent displays of dress favoured by bigger museums like the V&A.  Walking through an FTM exhibition reminds me just how important it is to see real examples of clothing, and not to just rely on two dimensional representation for further understanding.  This is perhaps even more critical when it comes to swimwear, where the form can often be misunderstood until it is seen on an actual body.  This exhibition does not disappoint the visitor who wants to see a hundred years of swimwear design with real examples.  It is also fantastic to see so many examples of clothing worn by, and not just in, the water, ranging from day dresses to sarongs, playsuits to burkinis. 


Pyjama suit, 1920s, rayon, designer/maker unknown

I thought the recreated lido and beauty contest displays worked very well because they best represented the development of resort life, which is really only dealt with in the written summaries for each section.  I think having most of the explanation presented in this way meant there was sometimes a tendency to display objects without any labels.  Corresponding images could either be too small or in awkward places, making them difficult to read for further historical context. Also, upstairs, there are almost too many examples shown and the displays teeter on the brink of becoming glorified shop windows.

Examples of swimwear from 1990 onwards

I particularly enjoyed the British Vogue prints because it is here in fashion magazines that we often imagine ourselves into clothes and situations.  They give us opportunities to fantasise about what a particular swimsuit might look like in our imagined holiday or for us to pragmatically assess whether it will suit our particular body shape.  Although swimwear is clearly a staple of designer collections, is associated with specific manufacturers and, arguably, integral to the planning of our holidays, for many of us, it is something we spend very little time actually wearing.  However, we do seem to spend a lot of time imagining ourselves in swimwear and possibly buying it, often with little success (well, in my experience, this is certainly the case!) It would have been nice to have seen the exhibition embrace this more, perhaps with the addition of soundbites from people talking about their own experience of swimwear, whether it be buying or wearing it.  I was curious to know whether people would try to make their own ‘telescopic’ swimwear in the 1940s, given that they were expensive to buy at the time.


1920s swimming cap made from rubber and reminded me of The Philadelphia Story

I also think more representation of swimwear in popular visual culture might have been included, beyond magazines and postcards. In particular I was thinking about the brilliant scene from The Philidelphia Story (1940) where Katherine Hepburn’s character gets changed into her swimming outfit or the scene from Shag (1989), where Bridget Fonda’s character takes part in a seaside beauty contest.

Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story

I think the choice to present the exhibition chronologically, which the FTM tends to do, is problematic because it fails to make thematic connections that might otherwise engage a wider audience with their displays.  I rarely see diversity amongst the visitors at the FTM, which is a shame, given that the garments on display are often of fantastic quality and make critical contributions to our understanding of the past and present.


Fashionable wear by the water 1920 – 1939; note the outfit in the foreground very similiar to Chanel’s designs which can just be seen in the book in the bottom left hand corner

To conclude, this is an enjoyable exhibition in parts but you do need to read the written summaries while looking at the objects in order to see the various stories being told, particularly the social historical narrative of holidays and resorts.  Perhaps go with friends so you can contribute your own social history to this exhibition – send FTM a postcard of your swimwear in situ!


All images are authors own except for opening image.


You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Minimalism

tumblr_mg21hivNQO1qkx8yto1_500_clothes rack

As I mentioned last week in my post about the documentary film ‘The True Cost,’ I have decided to experiment with the concept of a minimalist or capsule wardrobe in my own life. As someone who admittedly owns far more pieces of clothing than I could ever need, I will be taking on the Project 333 Challenge – limiting my wardrobe to only 33 items for the next three months. Although my motivations for experimenting with a minimalist wardrobe are ethically- and environmentally-motivated, there are many other reasons why an increasing number of people are choosing to limit their sartorial choices – less stress, financial savings or a shorter morning routine being just a few. Below are the two articles that inspired my personal motivation, followed by two texts on minimalism and fashion, from Chanel to Yamamoto.

1. Kahl, Matilda. ‘Why I Wear The Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day.’ Harper’s Bazaar. April 3, 2015.

Matilda Kahl, an art director in New York City, chose to create a personal work uniform mainly to reduce the daily stress associated with selecting an appropriate and professional outfit. While she initially encountered a lot of resistance and questioning from her co-workers, Kahl believes that her uniform has placed her back in control of her appearance.  ‘The thought of reclaiming the driver’s seat can feel overwhelming, but even small changes can make a huge difference. The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, “what the hell am I going to wear today?” And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I’m in control.’ 

2. Becker, Joshua. ’8 Reasons Successful People Are Chooosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day.’ Becoming Minimalist. May 13, 2015.

Fast fashion deserves criticism. And our culture’s obsession with ever-changing fashion trends is an artificial pursuit manufactured by those who benefit from it. The capsule wardrobe movement is far from mainstream. But, elevated in the social consciousness by some high-profile personalities, more and more people are applying minimalist principles to their fashion [...] If you have ever wondered why some successful people choose to wear the same outfit everyday, or better yet, if you are considering adopting a more streamlined wardrobe yourself, here are 8 convincing reasons. – Article excerpt

3. Dimant, Elyssa. Minimalism and Fashion: Reduction in the Postmodern Era. New York: Harpers Design, 2010.

From fashion authority Elyssa Dimant—author of the award-winning Fashioning Fabrics and co-curator of the acclaimed “WILD: Fashion Untamed” exhibition at the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art—Minimalism and Fashion is a groundbreaking, provocative  exploration of the influence of minimalist art and minimalist design on the fashion industry from the 1960s to the present. A foreword by celebrated designer Francisco Costa, the women’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection, illuminates how minimalism continues to inform fashion as modern design carries us into the future of couture. – Summary from the publisher

4. Walker, Harriet. Less is More. New York: Merrell, 2011.

When it comes to dress, less can most definitely be more. In this striking new book, journalist Harriet Walker surveys one of the most wide-reaching movements in fashion. Minimalism has its roots in the early twentieth century, when women’s clothes became pared down and practical after centuries of complex construction. Walker reviews the work of designers who, over the decades, have adopted minimalist principles in their work, from Chanel, who liberated women from Edwardian formal dress, to Donna Karan and Jil Sander, whose work-wear offered women a feminine but credible alternative to power dressing; and from the avant-garde style of Japanese masters Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto to contemporary interpretations by Gareth Pugh, Roland Mouret, COS and Zara. With 250 colour illustrations, including specially commissioned photographs, Less is More is the engaging story of an abiding aesthetic that has subtly shaped modern fashion. – Summary from the publisher

Image credit: Elle S’Appelle

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CFP: Fashion Colloquia: Feeding Fashion Energy

Proposals due: June 30, 2015
Colloquia held: September 21-22, 2015

Fashion Colloquia: Feeding Fashion Energy – New pathways for fashion education”, organized in collaboration with Institut Français de la Mode, London College of Fashion and Parsons New York, is taking place at Domus Academy on 21st and 22nd September and will be part of Expo 2015.

“Fashion Colloquia: Feeding Fashion Energy – New pathways for fashion education” will offer two intensive days to explore new creative paths and fashion culture, through meetings and debates with artists, managers, students, reporters, communicators, intellectuals and educators.

The call for papers to attend the event is now open! If you are interested in making a difference for the future of fashion and you want to present your ideas in just 7 minutes you can send your contribution by writing to fashioncolloquiamilan@domusacademy.it before 30th June 2015.

Download the announcement here.


Domestic Affairs: More Summer Exhibitions!

African Adornment

I remember reading an article recently about the increase in popularity of fashion and textile exhibitions. Considering I did an entire column on upcoming Summer exhibitions a month ago, and still didn’t cover everything, I would definitely say that’s true!

In Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), African Textiles and Adornment: Selections from the Marcel and Zaira Mis Collectionhas been open since April 5, and will be on view until October 12. Featuring 35 textiles and headdresses, this exhibition explores the concept in many African cultures of the body as the “seat of intelligence, spirit, and identity.” I very much hope to get down to LA to see and review this exhibition before it closes.

Another exhibition I hope to see is opening this week at the FIDM Museum. Inspired Eye: The Donald and Joan Damask Design Collection at the FIDM Museumwill be on display from June 12 until December 19 at the downtown Los Angeles campus. This exhibition is a showcase of a new donation to the museum by Donald and Joan Damask of historic avant-garde fashion and world dress, limited edition art books, and several historic fashion photographs by photographers such as Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, Erté and Willy Maywald.

Also on display at the downtown FIDM campus is Opulent Art: 18th-Century Dress from the Helen Larsen Historic Collectionwhich I reviewed here a few months ago. This latter exhibition is particularly important because the FIDM Museum is on a deadline to raise the funds to acquire the entire Helen Larsen Collection in an attempt to keep this stunning collection together. Since the FIDM Museum is open free to the public, it is difficult to overstate how important it is that they acquire it. For more information you can visit their blog and read their “Fundraising Friday” posts. On display at the FIDM Orange County campus, by appointment, is an entire exhibition on millinery! A Century of Millinery Style: Hats from the Helen Larsen Historic Collection has been up since March 9 and will be on display until August 14. The exhibition features hats, bonnets, toques, and a general overview of millinery fashions during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Up in Seattle, at the Seattle Art Museum their exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Artopens June 18 and explores how masks and masquerades answer the question, “[w]hen our experiences become difficult or curious, how do we confront what can’t be explained?”

In Texas, at the Dallas Museum of Art, Inca: Conquests of the Andes has 120 objects, including several Incan textiles, exploring the effect of imperial expansion on the arts of the Andes before the Spanish conquests. The exhibition opened May 15 and will be up until November 15.

At the Phoenix Art Museum, in Phoenix, AZ, Pattern Play: The Contemporary Designs of Jacqueline Groag has been open since April 4 and will be on display all Summer until August 9. The exhibition explores the desire for color and playfulness in fashion in Britain in the years following World War II through the work of the Czech-born designer, Jacqueline Groag. Featuring works on paper alongside the actual garments depicted, this looks like a wonderful exploration of fashion design immediately post-war but just before the launch of the New Look.

Also in the Southwest, at the Albuquerque Museum, Killer Heels: The Art of the High Heeled Shoe is entering its last months on display. Closing August 9, the exhibition features loans from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto among others, the exhibition was organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Costume and explores the history of elevated shoes from the 16th-century chopines worn by Venetian courtesans to the modern stilettos or even heel-less shoes favored by Victoria Beckham and Daphne Guinness. The exhibition even explores the pointy boot craze sweeping Mexico and the Southwest, and features several Southwestern designers!

On the topic of shoes, at the Bata Shoe Museum, they have just opened Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels. The stated purpose of this exhibition is to “challenge preconceived notions about who wears heels and why.” Probably of no surprise to Worn Through readers, this exhibition explores the development of high heels as a shoe for elite men and heeled footwear for men through the history of fashion and will be on display until June 2016. Also on display at Bata, Beauty, Identity & Pride: Native North American Footwearis on display until January 2016. Drawing on the Bata Museum’s extensive collection — one of the largest in the world — this exhibition explores the regional designs and craftsmanship found in footwear produced by multiple Native American peoples of North America from several different regions of the continent. It features designs from the 18th century through to the 20th century.

At the Hillwood Estate Museum in Washington, DC, their exhibition, Ingenue to Icon: 70 Years of Fashion from the Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Postopened this past weekend and will be on display until December 31st. Billed as the “first exhibition at Hillwood to present Marjorie Post’s full range of style,” the exhibition charts Marjorie Post’s style evolution and is a wonderful catalogue of her lifelong dedication to fashion. This is one of those exhibitions where I wish the Star Trek teleporter was a real thing so I could go without the jet lag.

Last but not least, in New York, there are a couple exhibitions outside of the Met‘s China: Through the Looking Glass on display. At the Museum at FIT, Global Fashion Capitals just opened and is already receiving extensive praise from places like New York Magazine. The exhibition features pieces from the “emerging” fashion capitals of the world such as Tokyo, Stockholm, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Mumbai and Istanbul, and through these pieces explores how globalization has given rise to these new fashion cities.

Also in New York at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Yinka Shonibare MBE: Colonial Arrangementsis on display until August 31. Shonibare is a textile-based artist and this exhibition was designed exclusively for the mansion and to fit with its 18th- and 19th-century interiors.

In Asotria, New York, the Museum of the Moving Image has announced an extension of its Mad Men Costume Exhibition until September 6. With the show’s finale having garnered rave reviews, the exhibition has been very popular.

Are there any exhibitions or events happening in your area that you feel Worn Through readers should know about? Have you been to any of the exhibitions mentioned here? What did you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts and impressions, or any information about other exhibitions in the comments below. Or feel free to email me the details and I will be sure to feature the event in my next column!

Opening Image Caption: Tunic, Mask, and Headdress, Tunic: Indigo-dyed cotton weave; Headdress: fiber, palm stems and glass beads, Mask: Cotton and glass beads, Marcel & Zaira Mis Collection. © LACMA


Museum Life: CSA Symposium Snapshot

With the Costume Society of America’s annual symposium in the neighborhood this year, I headed down to San Antonio for three whirlwind days of presentations, demonstrations, and exhibitions. In addition to meeting new people and learning about research on a variety of subjects, I encountered several objects that may be of interest to readers. Below is a selection:

A portable LED-lit microscope that hooks up to a computer and has the capability to capture still photos or video. This particular model, by Celestron, was used during Claire Shaeffer‘s workshop on couture sewing techniques. It can be found online for the reasonable price range of $50-100. Its application on a Christian Lacroix jacket revealed that a seemingly complex twill weave structure is in fact a plain weave, and the black silk fiber is instead a very dark purple.

Couture is all about hidden, meticulous detail, sometimes hiding in plain sight.  A very close examination of this 1960s Chanel jacket from Shaeffer’s collection (above) revealed that the knit fabric was cut apart and sewn back together again, almost imperceptibly, to achieve the desired effect of this striking black and white plaid pattern. The plaid pattern in its original, pre-altered state (with skinnier black stripes, diagonally oriented) can be seen on the underside of the collar.

3-D printing and modeling had a significant presence this year, with one panel presentation on its application in theater costume (Joe Kucharski of Baylor University), one poster on textile technology experiments (from Helen S. Koo of University of California, Davis and Seoha Min of University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and another on digitally recreating missing pieces in historic costume collections with 3-D modeling software (Cara Tortorice, Worn Through alum Kelly Cobb, and Dilia Lopez-Gydosh of University of Delaware).

Below is a detail of a 3-D printed Elizabethan neck ruff created by Joe Kucharski of Baylor University for a production of Twelfth Night. The incredible detail and simulated delicacy was achieved through a digital scan of Renaissance lace. It will be interesting to see how 3-D scanning, manipulating, and printing will be applied to exhibition display and design, or physically recreating missing ensemble pieces in a museum collection.


The McNay Museum held over two exhibitions for CSA members of Ballets Russes costumes, sketches, and illustrations and related printed material from the period of 1909-early 1930s (All the Rage in Paris; (Design, Fashion, Theater). The Ballets Russes exhibition was augmented by items owned and worn by wealthy San Antonio women inspired by the colors, patterns, and rich embellishment of the Ballets Russes costumes and set designs. These lovely fashion garments were provided by the nearby Witte Museum. Below is a juxtaposition of a costume from Sadko (1911) with a 1920s evening coat (both in different galleries, my pairing).



All photos provided by the author.