Monday, October 16, 2017

Fringe Elements at the Kent State Museum of Fashion

July was a busy museum month for me - I spent a lot of time up at Kent State taking in their new exhibits. Fringe Elements opened on July 28, 2017 and I was there opening day. The exhibit celebrates one of the most fashionable and used forms of basic ornamentation, reaching across eras and cultures, timeless in its use and presentation because of its movement and drama - fringe. Here are some highlights from the exhibit:

This form of fringe is a natural extension of a garment, and not only acts as a decoration, but as a wick, forming a natural barrier to moisture. 

Purple suede vest (English), c. 1960s

Matching purple suede pants (English), c. 1960s

Plain Indian leather dress with heavy beading, c. 1880-1900

Dress beading and fringe detail

Integral Fringe
For textiles which are woven, the fringe is a natural extension of the warp threads beyond the weft; they are often finished off by knotting the extensions.

Braided black shawl, Colombian, c. 1960-1976

Shawl fringe detail

Ivory silk crepe and silk fringe dress, American, c. 1930s

Bodice fringe detail

Woven dress (designer Proenza Schouler), c. 2015

Dress fringe detail

Beaded Fringe
Beads provide weight, sound, and a reflective surface for drama.

American handbags, c. 1910s

Blue wool Dolman cape, Chinese, c. 1883

Beaded fringe detail

Black silk Georgette evening dress, c. 1920

Silver beads and sequin fringe detail

Pink silk evening dress (Yves St. Laurent), c. 1969

Glass bead and sequin fringe detail

Tassels and Fly Fringe
The most elaborate of the fringe styles, tassels and fly fringe are often formed or suspended from intricately woven lattices or net. While the tassel has been in use for thousands of years, fly fringe was developed in the 1700s and structured from little tufts of fabric or yarn incorporated into the fringe.

Beige wool Dolman cape with fly fringe, American, c. 1878

Fly fringe detail

Black silk velvet vest with silk tassels, Eastern European, c. 1900s

Tasseled fringe detail

White silk dress with chenille fringe and silk tassels, American, c. 1860s

Chenille fringe and silk tassel detail

Fringe Elements continues to show at the Kent State Museum through July 1, 2018. What I've featured here is just a fraction of the garments and types of fringe on display spanning across eras and cultures. Do visit! 

For more photographs from the Fringe Elements exhibit, please visit my Pinterest page. Blessings and happy sewing!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dovima the Divine

~Kate Moss (Calvin Klein)~
Since the invention of photography, the fashion model has helped shape and advance Western culture's idea of feminine beauty. These models continue to reveal powerful aspects of their respective generation of women and society's perception of femininity, sensuality, and sexuality - a woman's mystique. The model is not just the canvas or manikin which designers have used to reveal the future trends in fashion, she embodies, represents, and creates the desired female silhouette of a unique era and the evolving ideas about women and what it has meant - what is means - to be female. 

~Peggy Moffitt~
Current trends in the fashion model industry include exotic, international darlings stomping the runway, curvaceous, full-figured beauties featured in printed spreads, and models creating their own entertainment and product empires, like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum. In the 1990s, model Kate Moss became the center of an industry health controversy and crisis when heroin chic stormed the fashion world and size triple-0 embodied the idealized female silhouette. The Glamourpuss, or million dollar baby, emerged in the 1980s with models like Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, and Elle McPherson, and replaced the Hollywood starlet as the symbol of beauty and wealth. The 1970s introduced the fit and toned athletic models, like Cheryl Tiegs and Bev Johnson, spread over the pages of Sports Illustrated and Vogue magazines, sporting sun-kissed skin, baby-pink lips, and free-flowing trusses of hair. These healthy-looking and physically fit models were a welcome replacement for models like Twiggy and Penelope Tree, who exemplified the emaciated look of the 1960s, or the sharp androgynous look of models like Peggy Moffitt. 

But it was in the 1950s when the supermodel began her climb to the standards in fashion and popular culture which we are so familiar with today. Jean Patchett, the sisters Suzy Parker and Dorian Leigh, Lisa Fonssagrives, and Carmen Dell'Orefice - all sensational beauties whose images captured the fabulous post-war age of Western peace, stability, and growing wealth. 

~Dovima (Funny Face, 1957)~
But, no one was Dovima. 

Born December 11, 1927 in Queens, New York, Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba was the oldest child of Stanley and Margaret Juba.[1] Although she had a brother, Stan, who was two years her junior, Dorothy recalled a very lonely childhood where she always felt like “the child who never belonged.”[2] In 1937, she contracted rheumatic fever and spent the next seven years confined to her parents’ New York apartment and taught by tutors. Perhaps it was a childhood of isolation and loneliness that compelled Dorothy to marry the boy a few floors up, Jack Golden, at 18. If she desired freedom from her over-protective mother and a new life outside of her childhood home, the marriage to Golden offered her no hope for either – he simply moved in with her and her parents.[3]

In 1949, still married to Jack Golden and still living with her parents, Dorothy lost her position as an assistant artist in a Manhattan advertising agency. She decided to meet up with a friend that afternoon for lunch, and while waiting for her luncheon date outside of a building on 42nd Street, Dorothy was approached by a female magazine staffer from Vogue who asked her if she had ever modeled before. Persuaded by the woman to follow her upstairs to the Vogue studios for a few head-shots, Dorothy reluctantly missed her lunch, but left the magazine that afternoon with a check for $17.50 (approximately $180.00 in today’s money) – she filled in for a model who called in sick.[4] The following afternoon, Dorothy was back at Vogue studios being photographed by Irving Penn. When the session was over he asked her name and she replied, “Dovima, just Dovima,” the name of the alter-ego she has created for herself as child, a combination of the first two letters from each of her three given names.[5]

~Dovima (Hattie Carnegie, 1952)~
Weighing 115 pounds and standing five-feet eight-inches tall, Dovima never considered herself beautiful, but a “gangly, skinny thing.”[6] Despite her self-image, she became a modeling sensation almost immediately. A year after her first photo shoot with Penn, Dovima was the highest paid model in the world, commanding thirty dollars an hour, where top Parisian models were topping out at twenty-five.[7] She became the subject and muse of renowned fashion photographer, Richard Avedon, who described her as “the last of the great elegant, aristocratic beauties…the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time.”[8] Dovima was anything but the girl next door.

However, Dovima’s title as the world’s top fashion model was far from glamorous and charmed. Two years into her modeling career she and Jack Golden divorced. He struggled to accept her fame and drank to excess.[9] Dovima remarried shortly after her divorce from Golden to Alan Murry, an official with the United States Department of Immigration. By then, Dovima was making $75,000 a year, and the couple lived in her palatial 7th Avenue apartment in Manhattan. In 1958, the couple welcomed their first child together, a daughter named Alice.[10] But from the onset, their marriage relationship was abusive. Fellow model and friend, Carmen Dell’Orefice, said, “I’d find [Dovima] on my doorstep black and blue and I’d take her in…she chose men that beat her.”[11] After discovering that Murry had mismanaged and squandered her money, Dovima divorced her husband in 1963, a year after she had officially retired from the modeling industry. With Alice, Dovima moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but Murry had her charged with kidnapping, and she lost custody and was denied visitation with her young daughter.[12]
~Dovima (Harper's Bazaar, 1950)~
The acting parts offered to Dovima were few and small, with little recognition, and she was forced to return to New York City in the late-1960s. In 1974, she was living in a run-down apartment and working as a sales clerk at Ohrbach’s department store on West 34th Street. Destitute and sick with pneumonia, an old friend from her former modeling days encouraged her to leave the city and move to Ft. Lauderdale with her parents.[13] There, she met West Hollingsworth, her third husband and love of her life. They were together for twelve years before he died in February 1986.[14] When John DeGroot, journalist for the Orlando Sentinel, interviewed Dovima later that same year in August, she was working as a hostess at Two Guys Pizza in Ft. Lauderdale. She died four years later, at age 63, on May 31, 1990, from lung cancer. 

~Dovima (Nelly Don, 1955)~
Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, the Irish-Polish American girl who dreamed of becoming a painter, shot to the stars as the world’s top fashion model of the 1950s – Dovima the Divine. She graced the covers of more than 500 magazines, raked in $75 an hour at the height of her career, and epitomized the sophisticated and patrician beauty so coveted by the fashion industry of her time. Vogue photographer, Richard Avedon, said, “The ideal of beauty then was the opposite of what it is now. It stood for an extension of the aristocratic view of women as ideals, of women as dreams, of women as almost surreal objects. Dovima fit that in her proportions.”[15]  Her grace and beauty were, indeed, transcendent.

[1] Edwards, Owen. “Fashion Faux Pas,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2005.
[2] DeGroot, John. “Still Life as the World’s Top Model, Her Life Was Like a Hollywood Script. Now Dovima Is Waiting For Her Happy Ending,” Orlando Sentinel, August 17, 1986.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas.”
[5] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[6] “Dovima the Divine.” Errant Aesthete:  Essentials for the Cocktail Swilling Savant. WordPress, September 23, 2009.
[7] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas.”
[8] Edwards, “Fashion Faux Pas”; “Dovima the Divine.”
[9] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[10] “Milestones.” Time Magazine Vol. LXXII No. 2 (July 14, 1958).
[11] “Dovima Bio.” (Accessed September 21, 2013).
[12] DeGroot, “Still Life as the World’s Top Model.”
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid. 
[15] “Dovima the Divine.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

All Wrapped Up: OSU Costume & Textile Collection

This past April, I had the pleasure of visiting Ohio State University's Historic Costume & Textile Museum in Columbus, Ohio (my bustling home town) and chatting with the museum's curator, Gayle Strege. The exhibit was All Wrapped Up: 200 Years of Fashionable Outerwear, with nearly seventy examples of extant garments across the ages and on display. Here are a few of those garments...

The Bomber Jacket
The bomber jacket was introduced near the close of WWI and meant to keep pilots warm in the open cockpits of early airplanes. The leather bomber (or flight jacket) became standard issue for the Army Air Corps in 1930 and featured a knitted/ribbed waistband and sleeve cuffs to sustain body heat, and two patch pockets for the hands. The lamb-skin lined bombers were introduced in 1934 and became standard issue for pilots during WWII. 

Evening Wraps and Coats
Evening wraps and coats reached their most fashionable and opulent time during America's  Gilded and Jazz Ages, when displays of excess were at their height, flashy fashion was a measure of one's wealth, and Hollywood glamor was at its zenith. The Great Depression had a sobering effect on fashion, and practical fabrics - those for warmth and durability - were favored over those of luxury and expense. While examples of evening outerwear from WWII and later survive, as the country moved on, the trend toward evening outwear continued to move toward practical and more causal designs. 

Short Coats
Short coats are about function, and shape and style are often dictated by the clothing worn underneath. Simply, voluminous skits, layered petticoats, and hoops and crinolines could make wearing a full-length coat weighty and cumbersome. Short coats not only allowed for greater freedom of movement, they were less expensive and became a more practical outerwear option as mass transportation and the automobile changed human mobility forever.  

To view more photographs from my visit to the OSU Historic Costume and Textile Museum, please visit my Pinterest page by clicking here. I hope that these beautiful examples of historical outwear inspire your creative endeavors. 

Blessings and happy sewing! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Women's Quilt Show: Wenona Reese Exhibit

~Wenona Louise Reese (top left)~
Back in November (2016), I received an email from Linda Morgan, coordinator of Wright State University's Women's Quilt Show, regarding a collection of 1920s gowns that a friend of hers, Ann Diller, had inherited from an uncle who had recently passed away. Enclosed in the email were photographs of several of the gowns and the question, "Would you be willing to examine the gowns and tell Ann something about them?"

Am I willing...? *squeeee!*

Linda wanted to display the gowns in a special exhibit for the 2017 show, showcasing them alongside a few of my reproduction era costumes in a progression of women's garments from the late 1890s through the 1920s - a chronological display of women's fashion constructed by women. 

When I met Ann at her home the week before Thanksgiving, she had the gowns laid out across her living and music room. I was so taken by the display, I didn't know quite where to begin. I suppose I could have thrown myself right in the middle of it all in hysterical joy, but my better sense told me to cap my enthusiasm and ask Ann about the history of the gowns, who owned them, and how she came about them. 

~Wenona, possibly at OU?~
They belonged to her grandmother, Wenona Louise Reese. Born in 1900, Wenona and her brother, James, were raised by a wealthy aunt and uncle in Winchester, Ohio (about 30 miles east of Cincinnati). Wenona graduated from Ohio University (OU) in 1925 with a Bachelor's in Music Education, and in 1927 she married Neil Thomas, and engineering professor at her alma mater. 

Ann told me that her grandmother was quite the social butterfly, and loved music and dancing. Add to this Wenona's exceptional fashion sense (judging by the exquisite and lux display of gowns draped across Ann's formal rooms) and one can imagine her flashing and dramatic presence at social engagements and soirées. In fact, Ohio University's Athena described Wenona as " of those tall stately girls who look just right at all times." Clearly, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I realized, regarding my host. Looking at Ann was like seeing a apparition of her grandmother. The physical resemblance between the two women is uncanny, and like Wenona, Ann is 6' tall, statuesque, and graceful. I asked her if she had tried on any of her grandmother's gowns and in fact she had, and they fit. No surprise - it made me smile

When Wenona died in the early 1960s, her son, Mert, inherited the gowns and over the years he and his wife used them in their church musicals. When Mert died in 2016, Wenona's clothing collection was divided between Ann and a cousin. Many of the gowns were well-worn and when I met up with Ann that November morning, her main concern was how to preserve, possibly restore, what remained of them. I spent several delightful hours in her company as we went from gown to gown, combing over their details, discussing the textiles, designs, construction techniques, and simply marveling over their beauty. Several of the garments were too fragile to display at the show, like Wenona's black silk velvet receiving robe - the ivory silk lining was shattered and greatly damaged, but beautiful all the same. 

From the twenty or more garments which came down to Ann, she chose eight to display at this year's Women's' Quilt show:

Dress #1: Constructed from black silk crepe, accented in navy and ivory cotton braiding and tassels; cotton lace jabot. Slipover style sheath dress.

Dress #2:  Constructed from peach silk crepe; this garment is one of the better preserved (despite its wrinkling) - there's no evident damage or color fading; slip over. 



Dress #3:  Black silk velvet sheath style dress lined in a fine black cotton; black cotton sash at the hip accented in a rhinestone star brooch; sleeves, cuffs, and side cut-outs constructed from sheer pleated cotton; slip-over. (This is my favorite dress from the collection; in mint condition - the photos did not capture its elegance and beauty.)

Dress #4: Evening gown constructed from pink silk netting, unlined. Peach and silver sequins made of celluloid, glass beads; eye and hook side closures. Note that a good portion of the sequins have been lost over the years and once covered the dress. 

Dress #5: Evening gown constructed from rose silk crepe, lined in sheer rose cotton; Norse/Scandinavian motif created from jet beads and white paste rhinestones (most of which are missing). The weight of bodice is remarkable; the jet beading continues to the back; complex inner lining and side closure with metal snaps and eye and hooks. 

Dress #6: One of two garments displayed from the early 1930s in Wenona's collection, this evening gown is constructed from a light pink silk satin and accented on the bodice with silk flowers; silk sash at the waist, closes at the side by several metal snaps. Note the classic hip panel detail from this era - beautiful!

Dress #7: The epitome of 1930s glamour, this evening gown is constructed from a light olive silk damask. Closes in back with several eye and hooks and seven covered buttons. Note the neckline and back detail of the gown.

Imagine, and this is only a few of the beautiful garments from Ann's grandmother's extraordinary wardrobe! Happy Spring, blessings and happy sewing! 

~2017 Women's Quilt Show~