Friday File

It’s been quite a week. My dziadzia (Polish for grandfather) fell on Wednesday and needed surgery yesterday. If you are inclined to say prayers or keep people in your thoughts, I would be grateful for good thoughts for him.

At work I continued the inventory project this week and also tried to catch up on some cataloging that I had fallen behind on. It’s turning out to be a very productive summer.

I’ll leave you with a slightly longer link roundup this week to make up for fewer Friday posts lately. Hope you have a great weekend!

nude shoes by Christian Louboutin, photo from Victoria and Albert Museum via NY Times

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is challenging collecting norms with a new rapid-response collecting strategy which aims to bring contemporary issues in design, including mass-produced clothing, into the museum’s permanent collection. An exhibition of these contemporary artifacts will challenge visitors to rethink their relationship to these objects.

Designer Martin Margiela was notoriously known for not appearing in public. Since he left his namesake house, the brand has cultivated an image of an anonymous design team despite the fact that they do have a current head designer.

Check out the lingerie companies that are challenging Victoria Secret’s dominance in the market.

Ever wonder what happens to artifacts and artwork after an exhibition is deinstalled? The Smithsonian’s blog tries to illuminate the process.

Vanessa Friedman questions why more designers haven’t gotten into the game of tennis.

A little historical look at caftans with fashion historian Valerie Steele.

A new social and cultural phenomenon in China has taken hold — female college graduates donning white wedding gowns in group photo shoots.

Ira Glass of This American Life is brilliant but also possibly a little crazy. And it only makes me love him and his risk taking more.

I laughed at these Google Street View selfies in museums and art galleries.

New Issue of Dress

One of the best perks to membership in the Costume Society of America is a subscription to the journal Dress. It comes out twice per year, and this year’s first issue arrived at my office about a month ago. Since life has been so busy, I was finally able to sit down with it yesterday.

This issue is dedicated to Charlotte Jirousek, who was to be the new editor of Dress. Sadly she passed away before the publication went to print. Charlotte was an expert of Turkish dress and textiles, and she leaves a great legacy in this area of research. Following Charlotte, Christina Bates, curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, will take over as editor.

This issue is fabulous. I already read a piece about Grace Coolidge and her wardrobe by Valija Evalds and one about fashion exhibition by my good friend Michal Lynn Shumate. There are still articles about the Panama’s Kuna women’s mola blouses, gypsy or gitana dress, the evolution of midriff exposure in the early 20th century, and a number of book and exhibition reviews to read.

I know a few of my readers are Costume Society of America members, so have you read the new issue yet? Any favorite articles?

Fall Fashion Exhibition at the Met

Exciting news came out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday. Its Costume Institute announced that it will offer the first fall fashion exhibition in seven years in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center!


mourning ensemble, 1870-1872 and veil, c. 1875, photo by Karin Willis, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition is called Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, and will focus on on women’s mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. About 30 ensembles are expected to be on exhibit contextualized with fashion plates, jewelry, accessories, photographs, and daguerreotypes. The show will run October 21, 2014 through February 1, 2015.

It’s exciting news that the Met is returning to a two-exhibition-a-year schedule. Also, this show, which will be thematic and organized chronologically, sounds as if it may be more scholarly in nature than the blockbuster summer exhibitions the Costume Institute normally produces. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

Friday File

It’s been awhile since my last Friday File, and there have been a few big changes in my life. First, we are moving at the end of next month. I’m pretty excited about our new apartment, even if moving is a pain. And second, my husband and I adopted a beagle! Her name is Dakota, and I promise a post about her soon.

At work I’m doing inventory of all the hanging garments in the collection with the help of my student intern. It’s very enlightening to go piece by piece examining the contents of the collection. We’ve finished the European designer section and are almost through the American designers. Need to pick up the pace a little though to get through everything by the end of the summer.

Hope you have a happy weekend!

The Cooper-Hewitt Design Library has digitized a couple of Victorian hair jewelry how-to books. So tempted to hire someone to make something for me from the books. Is that weird?

Somewhat sad, but also very interesting, Olivia Laing takes a look at female literary alcoholics.

Vanessa Friedman feels like she’s experiencing deja vu regarding the lack of change to fast fashion manufacturing conditions. Like her, I don’t understand why the industry is still figuring out how to address human rights violations in garment factories.

An artist is filling Chicago potholes with custom mosaics.

Rain Shoes

It has been raining daily in Chicago for awhile now — at least a week. I can’t leave home without an umbrella.

And It’s a pain to figure out footwear. Do I dress for the majority of my day or for the 10-20 minutes I might get caught in a downpour? Believe me, those torrential downpour can ruin a pair of shoes permanently. It’s not always convenient to carry a pair of rain boots around either, even if they are only ankle boots. They are just too bulky.

Enter this Sweet Dreams pair of shoes by Melissa. I’m thinking these might do the trick. Chic enough to wear to work or out with friends, they’d be ok to wear in the rain because they are made of PVC. They come in a pink, purple, teal, and red, but I might just stick with neutral black for the most versatility.

What do you think? How do you dress for unpredictable rain?

Avoiding the Corporate Look

So this may be an odd post to start with after more than a month of not blogging. But here goes:

I came across this faux snakeskin blazer from Zara via Girls of a Certain Age yesterday, and I’m really digging it. I always find blazers tough on my shape. They veer into the corporate direction instead of the cool I-just-threw-this-on style. But something this wild can’t possibly look too business-y, even on me, can it?

Met Gala 2014 Best Dressed

Yesterday was the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute exhibition. This year the show is a retrospective of Charles James’ work. I can’t wait to see it!


red carpet for the Met Gala, photo from @metmuseum’s Instagram

And last night was the Met Gala. I could dissect all the fashion on the red carpet, but, honestly, let’s just skip to the best. No point in wasting time on the ensembles that were ill fitting, revealed too much skin, or just didn’t fit with the theme.

James is called the Architect of Fashion, and his gowns lived up to that name based on complicated understructures that supported them. Only a lady with a strong presence could pull one off properly. So it’s only fitting that the best from last night made their wearers look like ladies and had pronounced architectural elements.

First honorable mentions go to Dita von Teese and Karen Elson in Zac Posen, Tabitha Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana, and Bee Shaffer in Alexander McQueen.


Zac Posen and Dita von Teese, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Karen Elson in Zac Posen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Tabith Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Bee Shaffer in Alexander McQueen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

And here are my top three gowns.


Taylor Swift in Oscar de la Renta, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

Taylor Swift looked so pretty in this Oscar de la Renta gown. I love the bustle that cascades into a sweeping train. It has just the right amount of embroidery, and the color complements her tone too.


Taylor Swift at the Met Gala, photo from @annstreetstudio’s Instagram


Lui Wen in Zac Posen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

I follow Zac Posen’s Instagram feed, and have been anticipating his dominance on this red carpet for months based on the behind-the-scenes photos he posts. I mean, come on! Liu Wen looks like a proper lady in this stunner that is clearly inspired by Charles James. This gown requires a “presence” in order to carry it off, and its construction certainly rivals James’ gowns.


Karolína Kurková in Marchesa, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

But my top choice goes to Karolína Kurková in Marchesa. Marchesa! Who knew?! This gown has some serious architecture and a little edge. The floral design pops right off of the fabric into three dimensional form. Superb!


Lui Wen and Karolína Kurková on the Met Gala red carpet, photo from @annstreetstudio’s Instagram

EDIT: When I woke up this morning, I finally saw Hamish Bowles on his Instagram feed. He was certainly the best dressed gent last night and belatedly deserves to be on my list!

Friday File

Happy Friday! My apologies for writing here less often lately. My evenings have become a bit busier. Also, I’m rededicating myself to exercising regularly — I signed up for Zumba and am getting back into strength training. This means I have less time to write after work, or I collapse in exhaustion when I get home.

On Monday I attended a documentary screening that I co-organized. If you have the opportunity to see “Men of the Cloth,” don’t miss it. It’s a captivating look at the lives of master tailors and their dedication to the craft.

Also, last night I got a haircut with a new stylist, Dae. He didn’t do anything dramatic to my hair, but I really liked what he had to say about developing a relationship with his clients. I felt like he really listened to me and that my hair was in good hands.

And now for some great links:

gowns by Charles James at the Met’s exhibition preview, photo by Hannah Thomson, from Vogue.com

Are you ready for Monday’s Met Gala 2014, which celebrates the opening of “Charles James: Beyond Fashion?” I’ll be watching online.

Fashion designer Patrick Kelly is the subject of a retrospective exhibition opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this Sunday.

Great news!

I don’t follow celebrity relationships, but I greatly enjoyed this open letter to George Clooney’s fiancée. She is one accomplished woman.

Do you read The Gentlewoman? I’ve been meaning to subscribe since it launched in 2010.

Just discovered The Courtauld Institute of Art’s new fashion history blog.

Mr. Selfridge Is Back

Are you watching Mr. Selfridge? In the United States, PBS just started season two, and I’m thoroughly sucked in. It’s basically a period soap opera, akin the Downton Abbey, but set in the city instead of the country.

If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Selfridge, it’s about the London department store. Season one introduced us the American Harry Selfridge as he moves to London in 1908, butts heads with the British over his revolutionary retail concepts, and unveils his concept of modernity. Feminism, the emergence of makeup, and various celebrities both real and fictional are all key plot points.

The show relies on an ensemble cast full of amusing characters. There’s a little bit of an upstairs/downstairs theme going on. First you have the lowly shop girl who has ambition and a spark of creativity with her brother who works in the loading dock. The store’s management features heavily, including the Frenchman who is in charge of window displays and the chief of staff who is in a complicated romantic relationship with the head of accessories. And then you have the rich who shop at the store, financially back it, and socialize with Selfridge’s family.

And the costumes — well the costumes are great. They aren’t 100% historically accurate, but the show is a bit of a fantasy and over the top, so, appropriately, the costumes are too. Maybe it’s hypocritical of me to give this show a pass, but somehow it works for me.

Season two jumps to 1914, advancing many of the characters’ lives in interesting directions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I love how they are developing the story line. War is on the horizon, and trade unions are rising. And the relationships between the characters are all deepening. Everyone reaps what they sow from the previous season, both for better and worse.

If you need to catch up, season one is available on Amazon Instant Video (free if you have a Prime account!) or on iTunes. And PBS is only two episodes deep into season two, which is available on its website.

Tell me if you are watching! Who is your favorite character? Personally Agnes Towler and Henri Leclair were my favorites in season one, but I’ve got a growing affection for Kitty and Gordon Selfridge in season two.

P.S. No spoilers in the comments please!

Friday File

Happy Friday! Unfortunately today isn’t the end of my workweek, because the college has Open House tomorrow. But it’s always fun to show off the collection to prospective students. We pull out the show-stoppers, so there’s lots of dazzling things to see. Hopefully I’ll get to catch up on sleep on Sunday and hang out with my husband, who has been on location shooting in California all week. I’ve missed him.

Now for the best of the week:

The new Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition on Italian fashion looks amazing. See some behind-the-scenes images of its mannequins getting dressed.

Not a huge fan of April Fools’ pranks, but this one by NPR is pretty great.

This would be a really fun job to have — fashion librarian.

Those ubiquitous rock-stud heels by Valentino are one of the lynchpins in the luxury fashion house’s financial success. Valentino is an interesting case study about how to stay relevant in the current market.

Uniqlo, the Japanese brand, is partnering with the Museum of Modern Art for a capsule collection in stores. I’m all for bringing the museum to the people, but this doesn’t seem to have any educational value, just a chance to make some bucks.

This article drives home how little has changed in the garment industry 103 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. In fact, you could argue it’s gotten worse. We’ve got to wake up to the exploitation happening in countries like Bangladesh so that Westerners can buy cheap clothes.