Winners and “American Woman” mini-review!

June 30, 2010

Thank you so much for all of your amazing comments…I have just come back from my weekend away and am in the middle of responding to each of you. It meant so much to me to read all of your kind words. I have been feeling less than confident about my sewing this week because I have attempted the Double Wedding Ring block, and it is slow moving…I’ve spent almost a week on a single block. Yikes! Y’all are raising my sewing self-esteem.

Anyway, the winners were Molly (blogless–garment items) and Yahaira (quilting items). I am delighted to send each of them their packages! Thanks to all who entered, and hopefully I will have another giveaway soon.

Molyneux flapper dress, photo courtesy of The Costume Institute at the Met

I did go to the exhibit at the Met, as promised. I admit that I am not as passionate about the fashions of the 1900s-1930s as, well, any other era, but I really couldn’t wait to see the American Woman exhibit. I feel guilty saying this, but I was a bit disappointed. The trip was worth it because the Met reopened its American wing and created visual storage. I went to see the American Woman exhibit on the tail end of my visit because I got sucked in by the period rooms in the American wing. I thought I may not have enough time (an hour), but I was wrong.

I think the experience would be very different if you did not sew and were able to appreciate it overall, instead of fixating on the minor details. The collection was good, but not great. Each room featured about eight to ten mannequins wearing different outfits of the era, as well as sparkly and sequiny wigs that did not correspond to most of the exhibits or the outfits overall. The wigs themselves were interesting, but they were confusing in conjunction with the styles (particularly the House of Worth gowns).

The exhibit was organized thematically as well as chronologically, which left out some important pieces from each designer. The manner in which the models were placed made it difficult for them to display larger pieces as well. They were each on a raised platform, which you could stand relatively close to. The House of Worth had only four or five dresses in the 1890s section, and they were all “typical” House of Worth: sequins, lace, etc.

I would have liked to see some of their statement pieces, such as the following:

They were all very monochromatic in the 1890s section, and a couple of the more detailed dresses were black. The lighting was low, and it was difficult to make out the details (again, I think that is a sewer’s issue!).

The second part was the Gibson Girl, and I wish I could tell you about it, but I was being knocked over by crowds of rowdy teens, so I strode on through.  The women’s suffrage movement was next, and they had videos about the movement playing in the background. The clothes weren’t beautiful, but they revealed a lot about social concerns and attitudes about femininity at the time. The videos were projected all around the room…I’m still not sure how I felt about them. They were powerful, but distracting.

The flapper movement followed, and I enjoyed that very much. I think you would appreciate it less if you did not sew and did not understand how much handwork went into these dresses, but they were absolutely gorgeous, if not very fragile. The dresses were in remarkably good condition considering their fragility and delicate beadwork. The exhibit did a good job of highlighting both the enormous range of details and the similarity of the silhouettes. The glittery wigs also worked nicely with these mannequins. The room was simpler to navigate and digest than the others.

Finally, they did something about movie stars, and I honestly forget the name of the section. Sorry! This section displayed what many people would consider the highlights of the exhibit: the drapey dresses of Madeleine Vionnet and her 20s-30s contemporaries, which you would see worn by starlets in early movies. Like some of the other rooms, this one played movies on the walls. They showed the dresses in their original form, which I liked…context is always good. But my biggest issue with the entire exhibit was in this room, because they showed one of Vionnet’s dresses on a seated model. Vionnet is known for her draping…her work certainly does not belong on a seated model. It bothered me more than it should have, though.

Finally, they had you walk through a room with a video montage displayed on some gray walls into a rather annoying gift shop. The montage contained such “American women” as Candice Bergen, Janet Jackson, and Jennifer Lopez. They had, of course, 30 million copies of the book High Style, which is actually a very nice book that records their collection. I wanted to buy it, but I was being kicked out, and I had already been yelled at by a security guard for trying to take a FLASH-FREE photo, so I was sad. I made myself feel better by going and taking this photograph (legally) of my namesake:

Most important, though, the exhibit did NOT make me want to run home and sew a new dress, which was not a good sign.

I am so sad to be negative about it! I don’t want to say it was wholly not worth going because I am happy that the museum is exploring material culture and the history of dress. I am actually happy that there were a million angsty teens there, because I hope it will encourage them to learn more about the context of fashion and perhaps develop an interest in garment-sewing or textiles as well (even though they kept knocking me over like I was a frail, 90-year-old lady with a cane, rather than a relatively fit person in her 20s). To this end, the museum did a fantastic job of providing a great deal of historical and social context for each era…and everyone was reading and discussing the explanations. I do commend them on that.

Final verdict: If you are already in NYC, go to it, but go to the new American wing first.

*all photos were taken from the website of The Costume Institute

2 Responses to “Winners and “American Woman” mini-review!”

  1. thanks for the review of this!!!!
    That black dress…wow. If I were to re-marry Porkchop, I’d kill for a dress like that…it makes me want to sew something fierce, but I *hate* when exhibits make me feel wishy-washy…grrrr!

  2. yahaira Says:

    sorry it was a disappointing trip. maybe if you come down to philly we can check out the exhibition at the museum. “Inspiring Fashion: Gifts from Designers Honoring Tom Marotta” I was there on Tuesday but didn’t get to the second floor to check it out

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