Fabric, lace and art

As much as I enjoy reading, gardening, being outdoors and the work of writing and marketing, I also enjoy fashion. Or, I should say, I enjoy observing fashion. I love the history of fashion and the artistry behind its creation. Often, you can instantly date a photo just from the clothes people are wearing. This is true not only of historic photos but family photos as well. Case in point, photos of my family when I was a young child are so clearly from the 1970’s.

My family when I was roughly a year old.
The rose dress
My sister’s First Communion photograph and a dress I adored, my rose dress.
Purple flower girls in front of paneling.
Maybe it is actually the paneling that gives the date of this photo away.

Two of my great-grandmothers and my grandmother were seamstresses, if not by profession, by hobby and passion. My grandmother sewed many of her own clothes, especially when she was young. Some of the photographs I have of her as a young college student and young married mother would be right at home in Vogue magazine. She had an artistic gift; her medium was fabric.

College dance 1940s.
My grandparents, on the left, at a college dance before World War II.
Walking in style
My grandparents walking in style through the campus of the University of Texas in the early 1940’s.

Some of the most memorable exhibits I’ve seen in museums were displays of fashion. The chance to see actual garments up-close is thrilling. Unlike in photographs, you can sometimes see stitching, like an artist’s brush stroke. The details of a button or lace are beautiful works in and of themselves.

I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s First Lady exhibit a few summers ago and saw the inaugural gowns worn by first ladies from the past 100 years. It was hands-down the best display in the place. I wanted to just gawk at each gown but the line was pushing me to move on, so I did reluctantly. The next time I’m in DC I will go back to see it again. I took my daughter to see The Golden Age of Couture, Paris and London 1947-1957, in the summer of 2010 at the Frist Museum in Nashville. Then a few years later we saw the costumes from Downton Abbey at the Biltmore in Asheville, N.C.

Today I stumbled upon a feature published by Google entitled “We Wear Culture.” It is a virtual exhibit that lets the reader interact with links and slideshows about fashion and culture. I had to stop clicking around because I could have spent the whole day reading and looking. It’s a great day trip from your desk if you can’t get to an actual exhibit this summer. No ticket needed, just a little time and an appreciation for creativity in the form of fabric, lace and thread.

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