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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The evolution of women's dressing gowns

We recently added pictures of dressing gowns and peignoirs to our digital database collection, which made me wonder about their origins. The idea of a dressing gown seems strange to modern sensibilities--a robe for warmth makes sense--but a decorative item to be worn while I complete my toilette or receive guests for tea?


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Source: Édouard Manet: Young Lady in 1866 (89.21.3) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Dressing gowns were originally worn by men starting in the 1770's. Banyans, a type of dressing gown worn by men in the eighteenth century, were inspired by Asian dress and frequently appeared in formal portraits. Women began to wear dressing gowns closer to the end of 18th century. Some forms of dressing gowns would have been worn only in the bedroom, but many were considered acceptable to wear in front of family and close friends. They were voluminous and were made of plain, white fabrics until the mid 1850's, at which point the silhouette became more fitted and colors and patterns were used. Women were not required to wear corsets with dressing gowns, although it is likely that some did.


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Blue silk robe, 1870-1889, Accession no. 1979.019.001


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Paisley dressing gown, 1870-1890, Accession no. 1979.074.001


By the late 1870's tea gowns became popular. Tea gowns were dresses that women wore when they received guests for afternoon tea, and were constructed from more substantial fabrics than dressing gowns, but were less structured than dresses women wore out in public. They were relatively formal because casual acquaintances might arrive for tea, so it was necessary to retain and image of propriety. Peignoir, a term that came into more common use at the turn of the 20th century, was also used in reference to a garment similar to a dressing gown. They initially were worn in the morning while completing one's dressing and grooming, but the term later evolved to mean any wrapper made of light fabric that was worn around the house or in the bedroom.


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Peignoir, 1900, Accession no. 1986.045.015


Around 1900 a dress style known as the lingerie dress evolved. Lingerie dresses are reminiscent of undergarments, but unlike tea dresses, they were worn in public. Undergarments had become more and more elaborate, so that they became something to show off rather than something to hide, but, of course, it was not permissible to go out in one's actual undergarments. Thus, the appeal of lingerie gowns that hinted at what lay beneath while showing very little actual skin.


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Detail of two piece lingerie dress, 1903-1904, Accession no. 1961.003.016a-b

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hello design!

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Welcome to the Goldstein Museum of Design's blog. I'm GMD's director and have been here for almost 6 years. I came here the year before the College of Design was formed, so saw the transition from the museum as part of the College of Human Ecology's Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel to its new position in the College of Design. I provide guidance for GMD's strategic thinking and major projects, work with the staff and advisory board to provide a sustainable and vibrant design resource, and represent GMD with professional gatherings and organizations.
If you count student work, my museum career spans a little over 35 years. As an undergrad, I worked on the installation crew at Miami University (OH) and in grad school as a curatorial assistant in The Ohio State University. Since then, I have worked in art and history museums in Ohio, Texas, South Carolina, and Minnesota plus gallery programs in New York, Nebraska, and Missouri.
I am also on the boards of the Minnesota Association of Museums and the Association of Midwest Museums. When I'm not thinking about museums, I have an off-the-track Thoroughbred mare and we participate in local jumper and dressage shows.
GMD is celebrating its 35-year anniversary this year. Watch for our celebration in the fall!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Sari window Pt. 3 (of 3)

There are many different ways that saris can be draped, but the methods can be divided into two main groups: 1) a diagonal drape wraps each leg separately, creating an effect that is reminiscent of pants 2) a drape that creates a skirt-like silhouette.

Four examples of the second style can be seen here. Our dress form lacks legs, making the between-the-legs style impossible, but here's an example from our Garden Party. sari.jpg

The green and black ikat sari is draped in a style that is common in West Bengal. Most of the time, the back end of the sari would be draped over the wearer's head, but if a woman were working around the house she might tuck the end into the back of the garment, as seen here.

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The red and multicolored ikat sari is draped in a style worn by women in Gujarat. The skirt is pleated, as is the pallu (or decorative end of the sari) which is draped over the right shoulder and across the body.

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Today, the method of draping the sari is more homogenized than it once was, especially for formal wear. The royal blue sari is draped in the most common style, which is known as the Nivi style. The skirt is pleated at the pallu is draped over the left sari so that the pallu hangs down the back.

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The purple sari is shown draped in a high fashion style, that is not often seen in every day life.The blouse shows the effects of western influence on Indian design, as is designed to fall below the waist, whereas cholis end just below the bust.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Photographing the Collection

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Since this is my first post, I thought I might introduce people to exactly what I do here at the Goldstein. I was hired here around a year and a half ago to photograph the collection, but the actual act of photographing is but a piece of what I do. While shooting occupies about 60% of the time I spend here, digital file management occupies the other 40%. I had to create this chart of my job description as part of our grant update a while ago and it is an easy way to see what this job entails. I tend to back images up a lot, as digital images have always made me nervous. We have all of our files backed up in four separate places on three different types of media.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sari Window Pt. 2

Although there are actually many different types of dress worn by women across India, the sari is the garment most often associated with female dress. Saris tend to be worn by adult women, especially after marriage. Saris are a draped, as opposed to stitched, garment and there are hundreds of ways that they can be draped. Saris can be made of cotton, silk wool or synthetics, all of which can be woven at different weights.

Saris often are worn with a petticoat, or drawstring skirt and a choli underneath. A choli is a tight-fitting blouse that typically reveals the midriff, although the sari generally is draped to cover most of the stomach. A choli usually has short sleeves, but some cholis are sleeveless. Many women wear cholis and petticoats that match their saris.

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Choli and petticoat

A great deal of meaning can be encoded in the type of sari a woman wears, including the region she is from, her class and her stage in life. Color is one of the clearest and important ways that messages are sent. The colors women wear change over the course of the lifetime. A young newly-married woman will wear the brightest colors with the most decoration, and the older one gets the paler garments become. An elderly woman whose husband is still alive will wear pastels, whereas widows traditionally have worn white.


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Beginning to drape a sari

In the final entry on saris I'll show four styles of draping.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sari window Pt. 1

I grew up in a house full of objects from India because my mother and various family members spent time living in India. Occasionally, she and I would go into the basement and pull out the boxes full of dress pieces, saris and costume jewelry. Some of the pieces were worn by my mother and others were leftovers from the store that she owned in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Because of my mom's collection, I've always been really interested in Indian dress and textiles. I was pretty happy when I learned that GMD would be having an exhibition on Indian Textiles, curated by Hazel Lutz, PhD and GMD's other graduate assistant Anna Carlson.

The exhibition focuses on surface design, rather than dress, so Anna and I decided to put together a display on women's dress in India as a teaser (and to look at dress from another angle). Due to limited space, we decided to look only at saris. There are hundreds of ways that saris can be draped--enough to fill several exhibitions, but we only had space for four, which can be seen below.


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More detailed images of the saris (and brief descriptions) to follow next week.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Welcome to GMD's blog!

Welcome to the Goldstein Museum of Design's new blog! Our goal with this blog is to give a more in-depth perspective on our museum through discussions about objects in our collection as well as an insider perspective on our exhibitions. We would like this blog to be a forum where the public can discuss issues related to design.


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Flights of Fancy: A History of Feathers in Fashion


GMD currently has over 28,000 objects in our collection, approximately 18,000 of which are apparel or accessories, but we also have textiles, graphic design and decorative arts in our collection. We have one main gallery space, in McNeal hall on the St. Paul Campus and another space in Rapson Hall, on East Bank: http://goldstein.design.umn.edu/visit/. We have three exhibitions a year in McNeal Hall on a variety of different topics.

We would like to use this blog to give the public a more in-depth understanding of GMD, from how a small museum works to the scope of our collection. Our exhibitions do not allow visitors to see even a fraction of the pieces available in our collection, so this will give us a space to talk about our collection. In addition, we will use the collection to exemplify different types of design from the late 18th century to the present.

We will be posting entries with images and discussions about objects in our collection. If there is anything in particular you would like to learn about, we will do our best.
Entries will be written by various staff members at GMD to give you a variety of perspectives on GMD and our collection.


Brief bios of our bloggers are available here.