Friday File

Happy Friday! I signed up for a week of unlimited pilates this week at a little local studio, and I am definitely feeling it today. But I need the push because I haven’t gotten much exercise in the last couple months because of life’s various detours. I’ve been sampling all the different options the studio offers. So far the barre class is my favorite. This weekend I’ll try out two more types of classes, and then relax at the beach. What are you up to?

Here are some great links to check out:

Lou Stoppard analyzes fun fur and its contradictions between fad, luxury, throwaway, and timelessness.

This is an interesting story of one woman’s quest to find Bing Crosby’s Levi’s denim tuxedo.

Before her death last week, the Museum at FIT was developing an exhibition of Lauren Bacall’s wardrobe. This week the museum announced that the show will open next spring.

Ok, so yesterday I mentioned that I didn’t want to start thinking about fall fashion yet. But, I admit, there is some cute stuff coming in Asos’ holiday collection.

Even though this is a few weeks old, this tell-all by Alexander McQueen’s long-time partner is a must read. Don’t miss it if you haven’t already read it.

Have a great weekend!

An 18th Century Period Play

This weekend I’m going to see the play Urania – The Life of Émilie Du Châtelet. Émilie Du Châtelet was a physicist, mathematician, and author who lived in France during the first half of the 18th century. She became a friend, lover, and collaborator with Voltaire. I know very little about Émilie, but that is not surprising. Few women from this period ever received recognition for their achievements and contributions.

My friend Katy Werlin is one of the actresses in Urania (seen in the first photo on the far left), so I am excited to see her performance. She’s a fashion historian, and she designed the costumes for the show. Katy is an incredible dressmaker. She makes 18th century dresses using period techniques in her spare time. I asked her to send over some images from Tuesday’s dress rehearsal, because I knew the costumes were going to be good.

The light blue robe à la française that the character Émilie wears is from Katy’s personal wardrobe. It was sewn almost entirely by hand. The rest of the costumes were made specifically for the show. Katy was assisted by Andrea Young, who plays Marguerite.

Urania was written by Jyl Bonaguro, is based on a biography by Judith P. Zinsser, and is directed by Eileen Tull. It runs this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at the Hilton Asmus Contemporary. Unfortunately the show is currently sold out, but there is a wait list in case you want to try to see it for yourself.

Aren’t the costumes great? I can’t wait!

photos by Eileen Tull, director

Friday File

Happy Friday! I have the day off and am starting to packing up our apartment in anticipation of our move next weekend. Packing is far from my favorite thing, so please wish me luck.

If you are looking for something cool to do this weekend in Chicago, check out the exhibition “Field Works Gallery Extravaganza.” The show is this weekend only and features 18 emerging artists who were inspired by the Natural History Collection at the Field Museum. Tonight is the opening at Ian Sherwin Gallery from 7-11 p.m.

Hope you have a great weekend!

The Dolce & Gabbana fall 2014 Alta Moda show sounds like the most luxury fashion show possible. Christina Binkley takes us along to Capri for an insider’s look at the exclusive weekend in Capri.

Mad Men is known for being fastidious about its attention to period detail, and of course the furniture is no exception.

I have no idea if this story is true, but this craigslist post about a NYC restaurant’s turnaround issue makes you think about the effect our cell phones have on our culture.

Miss Idaho wore her insulin pump visible on her bikini during the swimsuit portion of the competition.

All about women’s knickers in the 1920s.

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.

Magritte at the Art Institute of Chicago

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an exhibition as great as the one I saw this weekend. On Sunday, I took myself down to the Art Institute of Chicago for the members-only opening of Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938. It blew me away.

Right from the start you could tell the exhibition of Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s work was going to be special based on its installation. The light levels are low, really low, and the walls were painted a really dark grey, almost like a soft black. It takes your eyes a bit to adjust to the darkness. But every single piece of artwork is spotlighted so that it glows. It is the definition of art as sacred object.

The Secret Player, 1927, from Wikiart.org

The exhibition begins with a replica of Napoleon’s death mask on which Magritte has painted a sky scene with clouds. Then you move into an intimate gallery of his most early surrealist paintings from 1926-1927. These are my favorite pieces because they seem filled with magic and wonder, particularly one called The Secret Player, seen above.

Next are a series of small galleries focused on his works from his prolific Paris years. Word association paintings are a focus here. Magritte’s most famous painting The Treachery of Images, also known colloquially as “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” or “This is not a pipe” is included.

The following section documents his return to Brussels, and its installation is genius. The long gallery is broken up by a series of parallel walls (there must have been 15-20 of them), each of which has a single glowing painting on it. I loved how it forced you to look at one painting at a time. The repetition of moving between each wall was oddly rhythmic and allowed reflective time between pieces.

Then you come to room of cases documenting Magritte’s commercial work, photographs of him in artistically composed shots, and surrealist publications he worked on. The exhibition ends with works he created in London and Brussels from 1937-1938, many of which were commissioned by British collector Edward James.

Personally I find Magritte to be a great technical artist, and the content of his work is confusing, funny, odd, and/or deep. Definitely go see the exhibition if you can! Just keep an open mind and remember that you don’t have to understand it to enjoy it. Sure, some pieces are deeply symbolic, but others might not have any discernible meaning. And it’s ok to laugh at the absurdity. Magritte’s art is filled with jokes.

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 is open through October 13, 2014.

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.

Friday File

Happy Friday! I admit I am ready for Spring Break next week, even if it means I still have to work. I had a lot of class visits in the Fashion Study Collection this week plus a donor visit. I need a rest from lecturing, even if that means getting some monotonous cataloging done at my desk. Is there something you do at work that is commonly thought of as boring but you actually enjoy (at least from time to time)?

Aside from work, I’m looking forward to the Marc Le Bihan trunk show at Robin Richman this weekend. His spring/summer collection and pre-sale fall/winter collection will be 15% off, and there is a cocktail reception tonight.

Now, the best links of the week:

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has smart, funny, and compelling thoughts on gender, feminism, and Africa and she’s stylish as all heck. Her Ted talk is incredible. I need to get my hands on her books. Someone get this woman a bigger platform immediately!

My good friend Liz is headed to the National Stationary Show. And her business, Betsy Ann Paper, needs a little help with a Kickstarter. If you love beautifully crafted stationary, you will want to back this. The rewards are stellar!

I’m planning to sit down with my iPad this weekend and read through the New York Times special section on Museums, which was published earlier in the week.

We need to do something to better support female fashion designers in the United States. The following section, reported as industry culture, makes me rage: “Over the past six months, I’d estimate that nearly a dozen publicists and designers have mentioned to me that it’s more difficult to sell an editor on a female designer. To them, the hierarchy goes like this: straight men first, gay men second, women third.”

I would visit a Museum of Food and Drinks.

I can’t wait until the Yves Saint Laurent movie comes out (June 25)! Also, I’m clutching my pearls over so many original garments worn in the film.

Rena Tom wrote a great piece that muses over handcraft versus machine craft.

Designer L’Wren Scott was found dead on Monday, which was ruled a suicide. Cathy Horyn wrote a personal reflection about Scott’s life and her relationship with the deceased designer.

Friday File

I’ve started a new medication, and unfortunately headaches are a side effect. So as I’m typing this, it feels like someone is crushing my brain. As a result, this week’s links have a little less commentary than usual. Hope you can understand. And have a great weekend!

Colin Powell’s 60-year-old selfie.

Muppets on exhibition! So interesting to consider the muppets from a conservation point of view.

My friend Shaelyn goes on a bench-researching quest.

Did society drive van Gogh to commit suicide? A new exhibition in Paris explores that theory.

Painting with nail polish! These must be tricky to produce.

Stories about John Dillinger, Depression-era bank robber, always fascinate me. Recently, a tommy gun stolen by his gang in 1933 was returned to an Indiana town.

Picasso Postcard

I had to share this postcard that I came upon the other day on Artnet. Sent by Pablo Picasso to Jean Cocteau, a writer, designer, and artist, it pictures a little sketch by Picasso from 1919. It’s so lovely. Can you imagine owning such a treasure?