Elsa Schiaparelli, evening dress and jacket, silk crepe, embroidery, and beading, embroidery design by Jean Cocteau, 1937 France
This past Friday evening was the opening reception for Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum at the Museum at the Fashion Insititute of Technology. Over 200 invited guests enjoyed cocktails and gourmet treats with Dr. Valerie Steele and Timothy Long, the co-curators of the exhibition, who played hosts for the evening.
Cocktails dresses: left is Christian Lacroix; right is Christian Dior
The Chicago History Museum has one of America’s finest collections of fashionable dress. Chic Chicago provides the rare opportunity to see 50 of the greatest couture treasures from the collection of the Chicago History Museum, ranging from Gilded Age gowns by Worth, Doucet and Pingat to modernist masterpieces by Chanel, Schiaparelli and Vionnet, and what might be termed postmodernist designs by designers as varied as Cristobal Balenciaga, Jacques Fath, and Gianni Versace.
Emile Pingat, formal afternoon or dinner dress. 1878
Naturally, there are also important fashions by Chicago’s own great designers, Charles James and Mainbocher. Only a few individual pieces from the Chicago History Museum have ever been shown in New York City (most recently in the Poiret exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Indeed, even in Chicago, there has never been a comparable exhibition of couture masterpieces from the permanent collection.At a time when museum fashion exhibitions arouse tremendous popular interest, Chicago’s emphasis on provenance provides important and fascinating information that is not always available in other exhibitions, which are often drawn primarily from the designers’ own archives. Among the ensembles that testify to Chicago’s sense of style are Mrs. Robert McCormick Adams’ Lanvin wedding dress, lavishly embroidered Callot Soeurs dresses from the wardrobe of Mrs. Potter Palmer II, and a Balenciaga evening gown worn by Clare Booth Luce.
Design by Charles Frederick Worth - photo Anna Bayle
Indeed, the entire exhibition is a testimony to the great women of style who supported innovative fashion designers and then donated their clothes to a museum that would preserve them for future generations.A true museological collaboration, Chic Chicago has been organized by Timothy Long, curator of costumes at the Chicago History Museum, and Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT. Chic Chicago will travel back to the Chicago History Museum from The Museum at FIT and be on view in Spring 2008. This exhibition is made possible by the COSTUME COUNCIL of the Chicago History Museum and the COUTURE COUNCIL of The Museum at FIT.
Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum: October 12, 2007 – January 5, 2008. For more information contact: Brenda Perez, Director of Media Relations 212-217-4700.