Saturday, December 29, 2007

1,000 Places I want to visit before I die: Part 1

This was an article in our local ASG newsletter. It was written by ASG member Sarah Powers, a member of my ASG group and a fantastic writer.

A few years ago, I read an article in Martha Pullen's Sew
Beautiful magazine that described her visit to the fashion
collection at Kent State University Museum. When my
husband and I were planning a road trip that would take us
through Ohio, I remembered the article and a great
adventure began. Tom's sister Maurine, who lives in
Milwaukee, sews beautiful clothing, so we invited her to join
us. We had about six weeks until we would reach Ohio in
early October, giving us enough time to learn more about
the museum and schedule an appointment.
First, I checked out the museum's Web site at http:// The museum was established when
Shannon Rogers and Jerry Silverman, who were partners in
a very successful fashion design and manufacturing business,
decided to donate their entire collection of costumes,
fashion, accessories, and decorative arts to Kent State
University in 1982. At that time, the fashions and costumes
alone numbered about 4,000 items. The museum opened in
1985; since then, its collection has expanded through the
generous contributions of other donors. The university also
developed a curriculum in fashion design and
merchandising. Students at the university have unique
access to international and historic design sources. Over the
years, the collection has gained a reputation as a valuable
resource for students, designers, and fashionistas.
The Web site is loaded with information about the museum,
with everything from basic information and visiting hours, to
a dictionary of costume and information on the care of
clothing. After reading through the Web page regarding the
research appointment policy, I copied a form on this Web
page into an email message and then filled it out. The form
asked for identification details and what types of items I
wanted to see. Unfortunately, I couldn't just say "Everything!"
because only about five items per hour can be sketched and
documented. I immediately emailed my request and form to
Collections Manager Joanne Fenn, and she quickly
responded. Meanwhile, I sent the form to Maurine so she
could decide what she'd like to see and mail it in. We were
set⎯two days in fashionista heaven, complete with ongoing
exhibits to view.
On the first day, we met Joanne, who took us to the storage
area and helped us select the items to study. Maurine and I
had to struggle to keep from jumping up and down with
excitement. It was better than being in a chocolate
factory⎯temptations everywhere! Hanging clothing was
stored behind closed doors, with many other items kept in
acid-free tissue in large drawers. We collected enough to
keep us fascinated all day and brought the garments upstairs,
where Joanne handed us cotton gloves. We laid sheets of
muslin on two large tables so we could then work with two
garments at a time. I had brought a sketchbook and pencils
(pens are prohibited). Maurine had wisely brought a tape
measure. What did we examine? Clothing by Dior,
Balenciaga, Lanvin, St. Laurent, and Calvin Klein, to name a
few. You'll have to wait until the next issue to find out more
Maurine and I spent two days examining the treasures we
had chosen. Although we spent most of our time viewing
and sketching these items, we had some time left on the
second afternoon to view the exhibits. On the same floor
where we were working, two large exhibits were set up:
Mood Indigo, and Lace: The Art of Needle and Bobbin.
The Mood Indigo exhibit ranged from breathtaking costumes
from ancient China and Japan, to beautiful Dior and
Jacques Fath dresses from the 1950s, to modern denim
designs. The Lace exhibit included many items from the
original Rogers-Silverman donation, some of which are
featured in a recent publication from Martha Pullen.
Downstairs, two other exhibits caught my eye: Charles James
and Vionnet 2007. Charles James was an American designer
who created structured garments that helped inspire Dior's
New Look in the 1940s. The Vionnet exhibit contained
fascinating garments designed by Sophia Kokosalaki for the
recently reopened House of Vionnet. Anyone who has ever
used the bias grain should thank Madeleine Vionnet for
exploring the bias cut in her designs during the 1930s. More
on that in a future issue!
The staff at the museum was exceptionally helpful and
friendly. We were privileged to meet Museum Director Jean
Druesedow, and Curator Anne Bissonnette. Everyone, from
the Director to the guards and students, was welcoming and
ready to share their knowledge. Two days weren't nearly
enough⎯Maurine and I didn't have time to visit the library,
which houses many reference materials for fashion students,
or to see all of the exhibits at the museum. We hope to visit
Kent State Museum again one day, and I recommend it to
anyone who loves fashion and costume.
If you decide to study the collection, be sure to make an
appointment early⎯during the school year, students are also
accessing the collection. Allow some downtime, too, because
it's easy to develop sensory overload. Maurine and I found
some inexpensive cafes nearby, and we managed to meet
another ASG member in line who overheard us talking about
the collection; she was visiting her daughter at Kent State
and had been unaware of the museum. For spouses,
downtown Cleveland is a short drive away, complete with
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other tourist attractions.

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