Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915- What a dreadful title for a magnificent exhibition! LACMA new fashion exhibit showcases the museum’s recent acquisitions of European fashion and accessories. The title tells nothing of the fabulous garments and wonderful display orchestrated by curators Sharon S. Takeda and Kaye D. Spilker. I was lucky enough to have a friend join me, who also agreed the title was misleading. Entering the gallery, I could hear
oohs and ahhs of children and adults. The first highlight was a rare and beautifully preserved set of 18th century undergarments. Undergarments a
re very difficult to find, since they are the first things to get worn out or thrown away. Here you can see a linen chemise (the white undershirt), corset, and pannier (the wide hooped skirt).
Panniers were first popular in the Spanish court (you may remember them from Diego Velázquez portraits of the royal family, aka infantas). This style spread to France in the early 18th century, and was adapted to the robe à la française. You can see an example of this style of dress below, in the portrait of Marie Antoinette. Seeing the actual undergarments really allows you to understand what people were wearing in historical paintings. It must have been really difficult to maneuver around in such a large ensemble!
There were also beautiful bustles from the 19th century on display. And as someone that studied exhibition planning, I must say this was beautifully designed. The display was like a work of art in itself, as two vibrantly dyed bustles were suspended from a platform and the mannequin displayed a cutaway bustle. Genius! It reminds me of the
wonderful costumes from Sherlock Holmes.
Another show stopper was this pink evening dress from the 1830s. I immediately recalled Cinderella, imagining her wearing something like this to the ball. Have you noticed the mannequin’s white hair and accessories? They are all made out of archival material, and were custom-made for the exhibition. The curator and exhibit designer research the details of each costume, down to the historically accurate hairstyles. Wigs are then constructed out of buckram and archival paper. Regular wigs could cause chemical reactions to the clothes. . . and that would be a tragedy considering how well-preserved they already are!
Below are some of the highlights. Fashioning Fashion will be at LACMA until March 6, 2011. Don’t miss it! Visit their page here. Also, check out the child’s game on the website Fashion Costume Part. Absolutely delightful, even for big kids.