Saturday, 12 June 2010

American Woman


While I was in New York I made a visit to the Metroplitan Museum of Art. I went to see their latest exhibition - American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity. If you are in the area I urge you to go see this exhibition. It celebrates the addition of the costume collection, formerly housed at the Brooklyn Museum, to the Met. There are some beautiful pieces on display including my favourite - a rare sweater from 1895 with mutton sleeves!

american woman 1

The exhibition shows clothing from the 1890s to the 1940s displaying them in 'character' groups It begins with the heiress which consists of evening gowns made by French designers, the most famous and prominent being the House of Worth. I took the time to sketch my favourite gown from 1900 - lavender silk satin with lace and tulle sporting a wheat-ear embroidery decorated with beads sequins and rhinestones.

american woman 2

Next came the Gibson Girls with their leg of mutton sleeves and practical linens. I particularly liked a bathing suit in this section that was very nautical in style. Next came the Bohemians with their floating gowns and art deco patterns. One dress dated 1909-11 from France used strands of beads in sections for decoration.

american woman 4

The Suffragists and Patriots were next. I want to research further the buttons and ribbons worn by the Suffragists. Their united colours of gold, purple, white and green and later purple, white and gold interest me and I would like to incorporate it into my work some how. There were several gorgeous beaded flapper dresses to follow. Those dresses are so intricate but so delicate that I hope my $20 donation will go towards properly storing them when the exhibition is over. The final section of the exhibition was dedicated to screen sirens. This section was full of what I consider true American style. Slinky satin dresses cut in the bias with twists and pleats to emphasis the figure. My favourite was by a costume designer called Travis Banton from the movie Limehouse Blues. The gown is a combination of a Chinese cheongsam with a high collar and side opening and a Belle Epoque era dress with a train. It features a huge dragon motif made of gold and silver sequins that sweeps from the neck all the way down to the train.

american woman 3

My only complaint about this exhibition was the wigs used on the mannequins. I am used to displays that have period correct wigs or representations of such. These were not period correct, nor did I think they were even well executed. I expected more of the Met in this department but for the most part it didn't distract from the gorgeous costumes on display.

Go see it - find out more at the
Met website here

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