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Monday, September 16, 2013

Collection Exploration: Pretty in Plaid

Mollie Parnis was a highly-respected New York-based designer who made a name for herself designing for the "well-to-do woman over thirty." Her clients - Hollywood icons, political figures, socialites, and first ladies - were also her friends. They comprised her "salons," gatherings of well-spoken, interesting people who met to discuss current affairs and the arts in Parnis' Park Avenue duplex. She stated that "being a designer is being a personality. It's creating a look you like, that your friends like, that belongs to the life that you know." This philosophy translated into dresses that were versatile, comfortable, and constructed from beautiful fabrics. Never trendy, her designs were often conservative interpretations of current trends. Practical as well as beautiful, a Parnis dress was made to last for several seasons. She was careful to note "that good designing doesn't mean dresses you have to throw away every year. Things shouldn't go out of date overnight."

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Mollie Parnis [American, 1905-1992], evening dress, c. 1950, rayon. Gift of Frances Anderson 1965.018.002a-b

This 1950s-era plaid rayon dress was designed in a shirtwaist style, a popular silhouette for the day. Women who wanted to look stylish and feminine in the home would adopt practical, comfortable dresses modeled after Dior's New Look. These housedresses featured neat lines, full, calf-length skirts, trim belts, and modest necklines. This dress, however, with its crisp, shimmery taffeta fabric, was more likely worn to run errands than to run a vacuum. In fact, the elegant fabric, dramatic neckline, and sleek lines meant it was suitable as cocktail or evening wear.

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The dress' beautiful construction is also a hallmark of Mollie Parnis' designs. The skirt is quite full, but inverted pleats minimize bulk at the waist and provide structure. Interesting shoulder details are expertly conceived; careful folds are constructed to lend dimension and drama to the shoulders. However, this unusual detail seems to go against Parnis' design philosophy. The norm in the early 1950s was to wear dresses with rounded or sloped shoulders; this exaggerated shoulder detail seems incongruous, even avant-garde. Although known for her conservative tendencies, Parnis' plaid rayon dress represents 1950s fashion as interpreted by a savvy designer who understood and respected her unique clients.

IMG_3642.jpgby Natasha Thoreson, Apparel Studies PhD candidate (minors in Museum Studies and Art History), GMD Collections Assistant

This blog is the first in a series by contributing writers who are pursuing graduate degrees in the College of Design. Graduate students will hone their research skills by investigating items from within the Goldstein Museum of Design's collection, then share their findings with the public on our blog. If you are a Grad Student at UMN and would like to participate in this project, contact Emily Marti at for more information.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Behind the Scenes: 3D Printing 16th Century Ribbed Vaults

Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico is on display in the Goldstein Museum of Design's HGA Gallery at Rapson Hall through October 13th. Researcher and guest exhibition curator, Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla (Assistant Professor, Architecture, CDes) will be giving an opening lecture Monday, September 16, 6pm in Rapson Hall 100.

Nicholas Kramer, a UMN Architecture student, shares with us the process behind the 3D printing of the models of the vaults and their keystones in the exhibition.


The models in the Mixtec Stonecutting exhibit are the product of many hours, many hands, and several different machines. Before the digital models existed, the only place to see these vaults was within their respective churches in Mexico. After many hours with a 3D scanner, they had literally been turned into clouds of points, inhabiting their respective places within a computer.

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From the point cloud data, digital models of each vault were constructed, and the keystones extracted. Building and refining these models to the exacting specifications of the 3D printer took many months. The 3D printer requires the models to be "water tight", meaning they must be a complete solid with no bare edges. This can be difficult in such complex pieces. Since each model is a different size and has a different degree of complexity, the time it takes to print each piece varies tremendously.

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Some of the pieces in the exhibit were printed overnight and took little interaction other than pressing the print button on the 3D printer, while others took upwards of two days to print and even longer to remove from the support material.


The process of creating these models was a tremendous challenge, but ultimately proved to be an invaluable learning experience. The most exciting thing for us is that the models provide the opportunity to see and study something many would never have been exposed to otherwise.



– by Nicholas J. Kramer, School of Architecture, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, B.D.A

Images courtesy of Nicholas Kramer and GMD.