In today's post, FIDM Museum Registrar Meghan Grossman Hansen describes the process of preparing objects for transport to exhibitions at other institutions. FIDM Museum has an active loan program, and we often have 1 or more objects on exhibit at museums near or far. Beginning April 28, see a tuxedo worn by Fred Astaire in Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion at the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island.
We are always excited to see the FIDM Museum collection travel. Most recently, we sent Fred Astaire's tuxedo to join many other dapper gentlemen in Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion, an exhibition at the RISD Museum (April 28 - August 18, 2013). Featuring more than 200 objects, this exhibit traces the history and persona of the dandy, with a focus on well-known fashionable men.
Fred Astaire was very particular about his wardrobe, with strong preferences about cuffs, jacket length, stripe width, and other minute details. He once claimed that he took each new suit to the tailor "at least half a dozen times."1 For Artist/Rebel/Dandy, we loaned the RISD Museum a 1930s tuxedo, waistcoat, and bow tie worn by Astaire. The wool crepe tuxedo was made by Anderson & Sheppard Ltd., a Savile Row tailor still in existence today.
Fred Astaire’s tuxedo on exhibit at the RISD Museum, loan courtesy of the FIDM Museum, City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks (L88.1.31AB). Photograph by Erik Gould, courtesy of the RISD Museum.
Inspired by a flurry of recent announcements about new online archives, today we take a look at what's new in the world of fashion and fashion history research resources. Twice before we've published roundups of easily accessible online resources: here and here. Do you have a favorite resource (besides this blog!) that we've missed? Post a comment with a link...you just might help out a fellow researcher.
We've mentioned MetPublications on our Facebook page, but it's definitely worth mentioning again. Visit this page to read or download many of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition catalogs, including out of print titles like The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815 and Christian Dior.
The Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection features 500 garments by the designer, with a focus on her work from the 1970s and 1980s. A comprehensive look at Rhodes' work, the site features dates and descriptions for each garment pictured, video interviews with the designer, and design tutorials.
Lee Miller Archives provides access to more than 3,000 watermarked Miller images. Fashion aficionados will be most interested in Miller's fashion photography, though there isn't much accompanying info for most of the photos. This a great 1944 image Miller photographed for British Vogue.
André Studios 1930-1941 is an interesting collaborative project from the Picture Collection of the New York Public Library and the Special Collections & FIT Archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology Library. André Studios was a subscription-based producer of sketches for clothing manufacturers, and the more than 5,000 images in this archive offer a glimpse at fashions from 1930-1941. The archive is searchable by detail (pleat, raglan sleeve, etc.) or garment type.
And because we'd hate to leave you without an image from our collection, here's a detail of our mulberry silk tea gown. This style of loose gown was worn in very specific circumstances—during informal, late afternoon gatherings of close friends. Cascading wisteria vines decorate this garment, highlighting the Western affinity for Japanese design in the 1880s.
Christian Dior's New Look, introduced in February 1947, was a dramatic turning point. Banishing the boxy suits and dresses of the World War II era, the New Look ushered in an era of exaggerated femininity. Based on shapely curves and contours, and using an extravagant amount of fabric, Dior's New Look appealed to consumers starved for luxury after the deprivations of World War II. The silhouette was instantly popular, and Maison Dior struggled to fulfill orders. Based on the spectacular success of this first collection, Dior and his business partners began enacting plans for international expansion. Eventually, Dior would open retail outlets in London, Venezuela, and New York.
One of our goals in starting this blog was to reveal the aspects of museum life that are usually out of public view. With that in mind, we've brought you posts on exhibition design, mount making, creating paper wigs, and behind-the-scenes research projects. Today, we're thrilled to feature an interview with FIDM Museum photographer, Brian Sanderson. Many of the object photographs seen on our blog, and all photos seen in FIDM Museum publications, are taken by Brian. His photos bring our objects to life, highlighting their most compelling visual qualities. Keep reading to find out what interested Brian about working with our collection, and which objects are most difficult to photograph.
How long have you been working with the FIDM Museum?
About 5 years, though I’ve been photographing for FIDM Publications for about 15 years.
Did you have a background or interest in fashion or fashion history before you started working with the FIDM Museum?
No. In fact, originally my interest in photography really came from the fine art realm. I loved the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, John Baldessari, and Francesca Woodman. In the 80s I started shooting my own images in order to incorporate them into conceptually based prints and drawings. In the late 90s I started exploring more documentary-type photography, and in mid-2000 I ventured into digital photography and fashion studio work. When I approached Kevin about photographing for the museum I was intrigued about having the opportunity to explore light on three-dimensional forms.
And how is working with static objects different from the other types of photography that you’ve explored?
I am part of a creative team that can make immediate decisions to change how the camera will capture its subject. We can be precise and exacting. There’s no living subject to move or tire; no light starting to disappear. That level of control is very freeing.
How does control free up the creative process?
To start, Kevin and Christina position the object to be photographed. Kevin usually weaves a fanciful, historically based story for me about who wore the outfit and the setting in which the person lived. Next, I ask Kevin and Christina what is important about the outfit. Is it the silhouette? The detail? The construction? A certain feature(s)? Once I hear the story and know what is important about the outfit, then the fun starts. I try to pre-visualize what quality light is needed to capture both the mood and the object. I set the lights; take a few shots; preview them on the camera; readjust the lights. At this point everything is about trying to capture what I have pre-visualized will be the best solution.
I must admit, I’m very private about this creative activity. This is my creative time. I don’t even let Kevin and Christina preview these early shots. Once I feel that I’ve captured what I intended, I transfer the images to a computer and the three of us review them. At this point the images become the basis of our conversation. The images are scrutinized down to the minutest detail. Sometimes adjustments are made accordingly: lights are moved slightly/pinpointed more exactly, the underneath padding is fluffed and/or the position of the object itself is tweaked a bit. It’s during those discussions that I truly feel a part of a highly creative team. It’s a very personally rewarding process.
When we photographed this Vionnet evening gown for the FABULOUS! catalogue, Kevin spun a tale about a chic evening party on the Upper West Side. We photographed the mannequin from several angles to capture the glamour of the gown. In the view below, she's standing on an outside terrace, poised to turn and reenter the party.
Though our blog posts usually focus solely on FIDM Museum projects, today’s post explores another museum's collection. I recently visited the Maryhill Museum of Art, home of the legendary Théâtre de la Mode. Because of Maryhill’s location in rural Washington State, not many fashion enthusiasts have the opportunity to see this unusual collection. Experiencing the Théâtre de la Mode in-person was a fascinating experience, one worth sharing with all of our readers.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, the Maryhill Museum of Art is a long, long way from the haute couture ateliers of Paris. Located on the southern border of Washington State, Maryhill is also a long way (100 miles) from the nearest international airport in Portland, Oregon. Despite its distance from Paris, Maryhill owns a one-of-a-kind collection of Parisian haute couture, the Théâtre de la Mode. Consisting of 2 foot tall wire dolls dressed in haute couture from head-to-toe, this collection offers a unique snapshot of late World War II Parisian fashion.
Visitors to the Maryhill will see 41 of the original dolls on display, staged in three different backdrops. Balenciaga's pearl and bead embroidered evening gown, with matching hat, is front and center when you enter the exhibition. The backdrop is Le Jardin Merveilleux (The Marvelous Garden) by set designer Jean-Denis Malclès. The original backdrop was lost, but Malclès participated in a 1989 recreation of the original set.
Happy birthday to Vivienne Westwood, born on this day in 1941! We wish her the best and look forward to many more of her inventive designs. Though Westwood's early career, which began in the early 1970s, was closely associated with punk, by the 1980s she had turned to the past for her primary inspiration. Never one for straight-forward interpretation of historic fashion, Westwood's work reinterprets aspects of history, making them relevant to the contemporary moment.
Are you fascinated by fashion history? Interested in learning more about the twentieth century's most influential fashion designers and silhouettes? We can help! FIDM Museum is delighted to announce a new opportunity to learn more about the fashion and fashion history of the twentieth century.
If your class, club, or professional organization is located in Southern California, schedule a presentation of A History of Women's Fashion: The Twentieth Century. Brought to you by FIDM Museum's Fashion Council, this lively and informative illustrated lecture will provide insight into key moments in twentieth century fashion. Participants will experience hands-on learning with selected objects from the FIDM Museum Study Collection.
Interested in learning more about this opportunity? Email Linda Plochocki, Chair of Fashion Council's Outreach Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.