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.

Introducing Our Rescue Beagle

Almost two months ago we added a new member to our family — our little Dakota beagle. She is a rescue from BREW Midwest. She was living with a foster family in Ohio following time on the street and in a shelter.

BREW throws Beaglefest every May, which was where we met her and fell in love. She was running around among 100+ beagles in a suburban dog park with a yellow bandana that said her foster name and indicated that she was available for adoption. I bent down to pet her, and she started licking me. She was so friendly and loving that we knew she was the pup for us. She came home with us that afternoon and became Dakota beagle.

When we adopted her, we were told Dakota was between 5-7 years old. But our vet revealed that she is probably closer to 9-10 based on the greying in her eyes. Also, it is highly likely that she has given birth.

Dakota is a blue-tick beagle, which refers to her coloring. Her grey hairs are not from old age, they are her “ticking.”

On the Fourth of July, we took Dakota out to a dog park and let her run around for 1 ½ hours. Travis brought his camera along and snapped these great photos. At first she was a little unsure of what to do and kept to the fence, perhaps checking it for weaknesses. But then she figured out that she could go wherever she wanted and started running around.

She keeps us on our toes. She is 100% a scent hound. There are so many smells outdoors, and Dakota must smell of all the smells. Chasing squirrels is so much fun, and she loses her mind barking at bunnies. In fact, she tries to wake me up earlier and earlier because she knows the neighborhood critters are most active in the morning.

Indoors Dakota is very, very quiet and sleeps most of the day. Sometimes she snuggles, and she prefers to stretch out her legs when she sleeps. She cocks her head at funny beeping or squeaking sounds and twitches her paws in her sleep (we imagine she is squirrel chasing even in her dreams). Dakota loves bacon and peanut butter treats, but isn’t interested in toys. She’s pretty little — the American Kennel Club puts her in the 13-inch variety.

It’s clear that someone long ago taught her some basic obedience skills, but after her time on the street, Dakota is rusty. We are gradually uncovering and reinforcing them.

My husband Travis had a beagle when he was very little but I’ve never owned a dog. So we are learning too. After we move at the end of the month, we’ll hire a trainer to help brush up her obedience skills and give us a lot of pointers. But if you have any advice on dogs and training, we would love to hear. Know of any great resources online or dog blogs? Lay them on us!

photos by Travis Haughton of Wasabi Photography

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?

Third Anniversary

Today marks my third wedding anniversary. I honestly cannot believe how lucky I’ve been to find a partner who supports with me and grows with me as Travis has done. He complements me so well, and I can only hope that I make him as happy as he makes me.

Happy anniversary, Travis. I love you so much.

photo by Craig Watson

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?

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.

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!