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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Ready-to-Wear Revolution

“Ready-to-wear is not, as far as I am concerned, a lesser genre, a sort of sub-haute couture; it’s the future.”
Yves Saint Laurent in French Elle (October 26, 1967)

Yves Saint Laurent began as Christian Dior’s protégé but later firmly establish his own place in fashion history. After leaving Dior, the Algerian-born French designer opened his own couture house in 1962. However, this too was only part of his long career. He went on to play a crucial role in one of the most notable revolutions in the haute couture world: the rise of prêt-à-porter (or ready-to-wear) fashion lines. 


30, avenue Montaigne - the “birthplace” of the House of Dior (left) and Saint Laurent in front of Rive Gauche (right)

On September 26, 1966, Yves Saint Laurent opened his first ready-to-wear shop: Rive Gauche. This literally translates to “left bank” and refers to the location of the store along the Seine. The aptly chosen name both literally and metaphorically positioned Rive Gauche opposite of the haute couture shops on the other side of the Parisian river. Note the very different facades of the two buildings above. The front Rive Gauche almost merges with the sidewalk, inviting anyone passing by to enter. 

     Double-knit pantsuit, 1968-1969, gift of Shirley Fiterman 


Cotton floral jacket and hot pants, 1966-1975, Gift of Ann Ferris

The designer sought to dress all women, not only those who could afford his couture creations.  While Rive Gauche garments were by no means inexpensive, they cost considerably less. A 1971 article in French ELLE features a comparison of Saint Laurent’s designs. A haute couture shirt dress costs 5,500 F, but the strikingly similar Rive Gauche version could be purchased for only 650 F - just over one-tenth the price.

    Velvet and feather pantsuit with sheer blouse, 1966-1969, gift of Shirley Fiterman 

    Wool blouse and skirt, 1966-1975, gift of Aileen Grossman 

For Saint Laurent, Rive Gauche offered him freedom from the strictures of couture. The line became a way for the designer to explore and experiment. The ready-to-wear shops offered a wide range of styles, which allowed women to create their own wardrobes.  This approach to fashion is firmly entrenched in the broader cultural shifts towards autonomy and individuality during the 1960s and 70s.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Hat from “a galaxy far, far away…”

With Star Wars fans patiently waiting for Rogue One (the trailer was released earlier this month!), we felt it only right to share the cloche below that bears a remarkable resemblance to the hair of a certain Princess of Alderaan.  The close-fitting hat was popular during the 1920s and its name comes from the French word for “bell” – a reference to its shape.


         Cloche, 1925-1926, Museum Collection
This particular cloche is from around 1925 – over 50 years before movie-goers first saw Leia a she raced home to “save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy...."  



1       Princess Leia (1977) and the Washington D.C. Theta Pi sorority (1910)

Interestingly, the surplice bodice and high neck of Leia’s costume resemble dresses from the early 20th century.  The dress particularly looks like a simplified version of lingerie dresses from the period – like those in the Goldstein’s collection below. These dresses were sometimes also called tea gowns or hostess dresses and offered women a more informal alternative at home.


            Lingerie dress, 1900-1909, Gift of Marie Aamodt (left) and Lingerie dress, 1910-1915, Gift of the Minnesota Historical Society (right)

And maybe Leia’s boots on Endor could be equated to the low-heeled go-go boots that became popular during the 1960s – like these knee-high, black boots by Dior from 1967.  Since Leia won’t appear in the next film (fans will have to wait until Episode VIII in 2017), hopefully these glimpses will suffice. 

1      Leia and Wicket (1983) and boots by Dior (Gift of Meredith Scheid Bloomquist)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Behind-the-Seams Look

Museum’s exhibitions and photos share the beautiful exteriors of their objects. However, sometimes – especially with dress – some of the most interesting parts are hidden inside.  Luckily, thanks to the work of the Goldstein’s Team Digi, we’ve been able to capture interesting details that might have gone unnoticed.  For example, the silk brocade skirt of this 1890s ensemble is supported by a beautifully detailed underskirt, beneath. 


      Silk brocade bridesmaid’s dress, 1896, Gift of John J. Schlenck (1966.005.002a-c)

The evening dress below from Oscar de la Renta doesn’t stay up on its own.  Rather, it is built on top of a structured foundation.


Silk taffeta evening dress by Oscar de la Renta, Gift of Elizabeth G. Weymouth (2012.002.003)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Striking Hats from the Collection

The Goldstein’s collection includes a number of hats that range from demure to whimsical.  Some of our more quirky hats are by “Bes-Ben,” seen below. 


Top hat-shaped toy hat by Bes-Ben, 1950-1959, Gift of Ethelyn J. Bros 

These hats were designed by Benjamin B. Green-Field, who opened a hat boutique in 1920 with his sister Bes, hence the name.  He was known as "Chicago's Mad Hatter," remembered for crafting quirky but elegant hats for women.  While the spiral structures of the hats below on the left might seem daring, they are actually quite tame compared to some of his other designs. Many included figures of small animals, like the penguins and swans on this hat, while others featured household items like silverware or kitchen utensils. 

Two hats with veils by Bes-Ben, 1950-1959, Gift of Ethelyn J. Bros 

Despite their sometime “common” embellishments, Bes-Ben hats were by no means cheap.   They were worn by celebrities like Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor.
Lilly Daché is another high-end hat designer whose work is represented in the Goldstein.  She was born in Paris, but moved to the US when she was 16.  She opened her first shop in New York in 1926, but continually moved into larger spaces on better streets.  Within 11 years, she became the first milliner to occupy an entire building – which was called “the Daché millinery madhouse” (Jody Shields quoting The New Yorker).  As the title hints at, Daché was known for her tempestuousness.  Hate lore suggests that at one point she wore bells on her ankles during a strike to warn her workers when she approached (Shield, 1991, p. 114). 

Wool felt hat with feathers by Lilly Daché, 1945-1955, Museum Collection 
However, she was also known for her exception skill as a milliner. Her turbans, which were often wrapped on 
clients’ heads, were particularly revered.  Like Bes-Ben, her customers included many film stars, including Joan 
Crawford, Marilyn Dietrich, and Carole Lombard.  Her hats were quite expensive, ranging from $35 to $500 in 
1942. Today that equates to about $500 to $7,300. However, she did introduce less expensive lines in the 1950s. 


     Three Lilly Daché hats, 1938-1940 (left and center) and 1960-1969 (right), Gifts of Costume Rentals, Merry C. Detlefsen, and Mae Larson 

In the late 1950s, Daché hired a young milliner named Roy Halston Frowick – who would later be known simply as Halston.  He rose to fame after designing the hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s inauguration in 1961.


Shields, J. (1991). Hats: A stylish history and collector's guide. New York: Clarkson Potter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Election Memorabilia and Political Firsts

As we get closer and closer to the 2016 presidential elections - signs, shirts, and stickers bearing candidates’ names will multiply. Showing your political affiliation is by no means a new practice.  The first campaign buttons with photos were of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. However, the first mass-produced wouldn’t appear till the end of the century. These metal buttons were for McKinley during the 1896 presidential election, like the one shown below.  McKinley was also innovative in other ways. He was the first president to campaign using the telephone. 

      Presidential campaign button, 1894, Gift of Jean Chamberlain, 1984.077.031

These strategies must have helped – McKinley won and issued buttons (below) again during the 1900 election, like those shown below.  He was re-elected.  Unfortunately, he was assassinated shortly after he began his second term. He was succeeded by his Vice President, also featured on buttons below, Teddy Roosevelt.

    Presidential campaign buttons, 1900, Gift of Jean Chamberlain, 1984.077.029 & 1984.077.030

People have found other ways to support the candidate of their choice.  One of the most creative pieces of campaign memorabilia in the Goldstein’s collection is this 1968 ensemble (below) made from silk campaign scarves in support of Hubert Humphrey.  

1       Silk dress and hat, 1968, Gift of Muriel Humphrey Brown, 1987.028.008a-b

Humphrey served as the 38th Vice President alongside Lyndon B. Johnson.  He went on to run for president in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon.  The ensemble was donated by the wife of the former Vice President, Muriel Humphrey Brown.  Interestingly, she went to have her own brief political career. When her husband passed away in 1978, she took his place as a Minnesota senator – making Humphrey Brown the first wife of a Vice President to hold office.