Another Side of Textiles

While I use textiles mostly in fiber art, I love seeing how other people use textiles in garments. Recently I had the chance to ooh and ah at fashions from bygone eras at the Kent State University museum. That museum, which focuses on fashion and textiles, is showing exhibits of 1940s and 1980s fashions. As an unexpected bonus, I also enjoyed an exhibit on southern African fashion.

The 1940s exhibit covered all sorts of clothing: military, nursing, and scouting uniforms; bathing suits; undergarments; women’s day wear; accessories; and gorgeous ball gowns and wedding dresses. Designers represented include Dior, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Sophie Gimbel, Charles James, Claire McCardell, and Valentina. I spent some time admiring the period shoes, gloves, and hats. I have dim memories of my mother’s glove collection, and know that everyone wore hats in that era thanks to the movies. Here’s my choice for knockout dress. It’s cunningly engineered, and is by Charles James.

The 1980s exhibit included lots of evening wear, with a few day wear pieces intermingled. Yes, there were big shoulders and some very “Dallas” pieces, but many have stood the test of time well. The big find for me in this exhibit was the work of Zandra Rhodes, a British designer very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. I was spoiled for choice, but here are my top picks.

As I said, the southern African fashion exhibit was a surprise bonus. The Namibian and South African designers blend textiles associated with Africa with western style textiles to create a unique style. A few pieces were quite beige, but most channeled the colors in a roll of Life Savers.

I found additional photos of this exhibit here.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Another Side of Textiles

  1. I’ve been enjoying your museum visits this year. This one is top notch — LUCKY! The amazing green and bronzey metallic strappy dress, that beautiful clutch purse, what a treat these must be to see in person. Thanks again for sharing pix of your outings.

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed the reports of my outings. That dress was the one I picked to wear to the Academy Awards – we all chose the one we’d want to show up in. Definitely the department of wishful thinking on many levels.

      • Wishful thinking, flights of fancy, fun either way. We had a young guest a couple of years ago who told us her year’s resolution was to visit at least one museum a month. It seemed like a worthy goal, and we described for her several museums in our area. I’m not sure if she had a chance to take advantage of it. I know we do not. Guess I should try harder at that…

      • Quite selfishly I like the smaller museums as they’re often less crowded. A trip to MOMA showed me how well known museums get a crush of visitors that can make the experience feel more like a subway ride at rush hour.

  2. University art museums tend to be overlooked, I think, but they can offer so much. I didn’t know that Kent’s museum focused on textiles and fashion–that’s pretty neat!

    • Somehow Kent got hold of major benefactors from the fashion world, and the university has a well regarded fashion design program. They have quite a collection of Katherine Hepburn’s clothing. A pair of her pants was in the 1940s exhibit.

  3. I have spent hours this morning perusing some of their online exhibits and galleries. Thank you!

  4. Wow! The garments and accessories are so fun to see. Thank you for sharing.

    • Too bad you can’t actually see them for real. My party of three had the museum practically to ourselves (the university semester was done) so we had lots of up close time.

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