This Sunday marks the last day of Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915, which features men’s, women’s, and children’s garments from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. The content of the exhibition comes from our own permanent collection, and much of it from a major acquisition we made in 2008. This week’s personal recollection from Hylan Booker (who knew we had a couturier in our midst?) and dancer Jean Claude Wouters’ Fashioning Fashion-inspired performance were the last in a long run of great blog posts we’ve run on Unframed about Fashioning Fashion. With so many people involved in assembling this exhibition—curators, conservators, designers, and more—Unframed has been the beneficiary of a rich and diverse number of blog posts about the objects in the show. Before the exhibition closes, we thought we’d look back on some of the great stories Fashioning Fashion has brought to light. (Never mind the many more stories told in the exhibition catalogue!)
First there were the artists and fashion-world luminaries who responded in one way or another to the show:
- We interviewed Lisa Love while she was at the museum for a Vogue photo shoot that featured costumes from the exhibition.
- Prior to making his recent controversial statements, John Galliano wrote about a vest on view in the exhibition which, well, wears its political views on its sleeve.
- Artist Bari Ziperstein created an online artwork, a thaumatrope, exclusively for LACMA in response to the exhibition.
- As mentioned, Jean Claude Wouters’ dance performance inside of the Resnick Pavilion, inspired by the show.
Fashioning Fashion was apparently a fun exhibition to prep for, as a few behind-the-scenes posts made clear:
- Clarissa Esguerra’s post about creating the mannequins for the exhibition was one of the most popular posts we’ve ever done on Unframed.
- Nearly as popular and just as interesting was Sophie Gan’s tutorial on how to make the mannequins’ paper wigs.
No one seems to have had as much fun as our conservators in preparing the costumes for exhibition.
- Laleña Arenas Vellanoweth described the mystery of determining just how a court train for the magnificent dress, believed to be owned by Queen Maria II of Portugal, was worn.
- Maria Fusco discovered that the faux pearls on one dress were made of hollow glass beads which were filled with a glue derived from fish scales.
- Senior conservation technician Jean Neeman was tasked with creating buttons for a man’s vest originally made in around 1800. Can you spot the fakes?
- Conservator Susan Schmalz had her own challenge—fixing runs in a 300-year-old pair of stockings.
And of course there were the stories behind some of the costumes themselves:
- Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell looked at a woman’s tennis dress from 1885—an enemy to athleticism if ever I’ve seen one.
- Catherine McLean and Charlotte Eng told the fascinating story of where the phrase “mad as a hatter” came from—mercury poisoning.
Finally, there was our gift to you: if you liked the patterns on view in Fashioning Fashion, and you know your way around costume design, we made patterns from the show available for free download. We talked with Thomas John Bernard, a theatrical costume designer and professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who worked with the curators to create the patterns, about the project. (And one more thing, though not from the blog: the great online kids’ game developed especially for Fashioining Fashion.)
It’s been a thrill and a pleasure to see this show on view in the Resnick Pavilion for the last few months, and to see it met with so much enthusiasm from visitors and staff alike. If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’ve got just a few more days to see it before it’s gone.