labricoleuse: (ominous fancy)
When i first heard about the story of fashion designer Hedy Strnad, I knew i had to see the exhibit featuring her designs made real. Strnad was murdered by the Nazis in WW2, but eight of her fashion design renderings survived, preserved by extended family living in Wisconsin. In conjunction with the costume shop at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee created an exhibit about the Strnads which includes those designs made up in fabrics, as they would have been, had she survived to enjoy the creative career she ought to have known.

After a stint in Milwaukee the exhibit has come to NYC at the Museum of Jewish Heritage down on Battery Park, and today i went to see it. Here are some highlights:

The coat is arranged to display not only the lining which matches the dress (fabric hand-screened by the Rep's artists) but also the designer label they created for her in the style of the period, using Hedy's actual signature from a letter.

I've used that double-button detail myself in a show! I just love this look.

Irregular pleated inset detail in lavender tailored jacket.

Underneat the full-size painted renderings there are fabric swatchs so you can feel the textiles used without groping the displays. Nice stuff!

A distance shot of one of the displays, showing how the mannequins are juxtaposed against historical photographs of the period, informational text, maps, and so forth. There's also a video running which goes in-depth about the involvement of the Rep's costume professionals.

I don't exagerrate when i say that seeing this exhibit was a cathartic and spiritually touching experience. It is a very particular way of approaching an overwhelming tragedy in our history as humankind, and illuminated exactly, precisely what was lost to the world when Hedwig Strnad was murdered. I absolutely loved seeing it documented how costume professionals worked on this incredible project, using the skills of our trade--draping, stitching, millinery, screenprinting--in bringing these designs to fruition, actualizing them for display.

If you are anywhere near NYC and can see it, go. Take a handkerchief and go. And, the exhibit will at some point return to its permanent home in Milwaukee, so if you missed it the first time, you'll be able to catch it again when it comes back.
labricoleuse: (mee)
This post is the first of more-than-one [1] concerning our final costume replica project for the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC: a Stillsuit from the 1984 film, Dune.

So, first let’s consider the costume itself. Within the context of the film (and the numerous novels by Frank Herbert which predate the movie), a Stillsuit is a standard outerwear garment for people on the desert planet of Arrakis. It basically collects a person’s sweat and bodily wastes, filters/distills/purifies them, keeps the wearer’s body at a reasonable temperature, and turns all the waste into sustenance. It also makes everybody look kind of like a superhero in a black rubber union suit.

You can check out our Pinboard of research images here, to get a good overview of what we’re creating. In addition to my collection of these photos to work from, the Museum also provided us a DVD of the film to view and screencap as needed. We even held a viewing party at the theatre early on in the process, for those faculty, staff, and students who would be working on the projects—in addition to the Stillsuit, our props department is creating a replica of the Maker Hook (a kind of weapon-tool people use on Arrakis…it’s a long story involving huge sandworms that secrete a drug called the Spice and how that drug is harvested).

There are a variety of different Stillsuits in the film, all minor variations on the same basic look. They differ depending on whether the wearer is an adult or child, man or woman, and according to how the wearer’s frame is built. So, a Stillsuit for a tall skinny person might differ from a Stillsuit for a short broad person in minor details like, say, the arrangement of the pad shapes and tubing details down the length of the limbs. There are dozens and dozens of these costumes in the film, similar to how there are loads of the same military uniform in a war movie, all slightly different. And much like with the Neo coat we made from The Matrix, you can find some visual example of any slight variation in style-line because there simply were so many of the original.

For the Stillsuit we’ve been asked to create, we have a display mannequin which it must fit; and just as we dealt with in terms of our prior projects for 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix, display mannequins have unusual, exaggerated bodies. They’re elongated, posed in an odd presentational stance, and their measurements are…well, outside the norm compared to human actors. (You also have to twist their arms and legs off to put their clothes on, which presents its own set of challenges…but more on that later perhaps.)

In the case of this costume, the original concept by costume designer Bob Ringwood  incorporated the pad structures in such a configuration as to boost and "feature" the musculature of the wearers—all the guys in Dune give the impression of being incredibly fit because the Stillsuits augment their shoulder breadth, pecs/abs, biceps/thighs/calves. We’re working off of a mannequin though who already has substantial shape in those areas, so we knew we’d need to approach this project with a mind to proportion in the pad shapes which took into account the idealized body underneath.

We were also asked to specifically look at the Stillsuit worn by Max von Sydow, who played the character Dr. Liet Kynes (on the far left in the photo above). Dr. Kynes has been stationed on Arrakis for much longer than some other characters, and as such his Stillsuits [2] are not shiny-black and brand-new like many of the other characters’ costumes. Dr. Kynes’s suit has been sandblasted and sun-baked so that it’s got an aged, distressed look. It’s dusty, it’s well-worn, it’s been keeping him alive for a long time. In some lights it even appears to have a brown cast. That’s the surface look we’re going for in our replica: a suit which would have been worn by an experienced veteran of life on Arrakis.

But when you look at these costumes, you may ask yourself: what am I looking at? Are they leather? Rubber? Vinyl? What are those things made of? How do they move like they do when the actors run across the desert or execute complex fight choreography? On our research Pinboard, you’ll also find a link to this video, which is a behind-the-scenes look at how the original artisans made the original Stillsuits back in the early 1980s: a complicated process involving full-body life-casts, latex rubber, and so forth. It provided excellent insight into exactly what we’re seeing when we watch the film and observe these costumes in action.

And for us as the costume artisans developing this display piece, it was an excellent document of methodology illustrating exactly why we shouldn’t create our replica for the Museum using the same process used by the original creators!

I’ll explain why in the next post in the series...

[1] I’m not sure yet how many posts it’ll take to fully cover this project. I’m going to guess, at least three For now, let’s just say that this is definitely not the only one!

[2] I use the plural here for a couple of reasons.

First, conceptually, I would not want to wear the same Stillsuit every single day on Arrakis. I’d want to rotate through a few because it just seems more sanitary, the way you don’t want to wear the same clothes every day. So i’m choosing to think that Dr. Kynes has several Stillsuits.

But second, in actual fact, it’s standard for there to be duplicates of costumes in film particularly of the stars, for any number of reasons—recall the Neo coat for which over twenty different versions were used. Unlike for The Matrix, we don’t have confirmation of the exact number of suits each performer might have worn, but just inspecting the film stills, press photographs, and the DVD, there appear to have been more than one created for Mr. von Sydow.
labricoleuse: (mee)
This past spring, we entered into a very exciting partnership with the in-development Museum of Science Fiction.

This article gives a pretty good overview of how we wound up getting involved, and you can watch a brief video about it at this link.

So, this post is a behind-the-scenes photoessay overview of what this first project entailed.

Graduate student (now alumna '15) Denise Chukhina adjusts the jacket.
One challenge of this project was building the costume for a display form instead of a human being.
Look how tall our mannequin is!

Mockup of jacket and hat - at this point, Denise was working with scale and proportion and figuring out the patterns for making the finished pieces. Denise drafted and draped the patterns for these garments from measurements and research images, and made the garments from materials provided by the Museum.

We worked with Richelle Devereaux-Murray, Emerson College costume shop supervisor, to produce our custom embroidery of the jacket logo. (Note our sweet MOSF label in the lining, too!)

The finished hat has this cool 3D printed medallion on it! We worked with science librarian David Romito, who helped us take the original PanAm medallion (which is much smaller than this one), digitize the shape, and print it on a MakerBot at the UNC Research Hub here on campus.

We had three fabricated, just in case we needed extras. Here they are sprayed first with plastic primer...

...then they were painted with metallic paint and foiled for reflectivity. Shown before foiling here with one of the research images.

The Grip Shoes are perhaps the most iconic part of this costume!
The unusual shape of the mannequin's feet made this a particular challenge.

Logo color/scale tests on the white leather.

Ready for display! She will be on view at various preview events, fundraisers, and installations between now and the opening of the museum in DC.
See her and much more now at Reagan National Airport, where the first exhibition opened July 7.
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is conducting a WWI Centenary Project, a "year-long conversation" about the legacy of that conflict, 100 years down the line. This has manifested in a huge range of participation across many departments and facets of the university, from exhibits in our museums, talks and workshops and presentations, theatrical and musical performances from the time period, and so forth.

The Costume Archive is participating, too, with a current display of "armistice blouses" and WWI artifacts in the lobby of the Center for Dramatic Art. I got a few photos, which i'll apologize for the glare of the glass from the display case. Not sure how long these will be on view, but probably for the remainder of the semester.

Blouses and other photos )
labricoleuse: (design)
While in New York this summer, i also got a chance to check out the NYC Makers exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design, running through October 12, 2014. The exhibit spotlights 100 "Makers" throughout NYC's 5 boroughs, creators of all different types of art and creatively-designed products.

It spans two floors of the museum and extends also into the stairwells and elevator spaces, and really, you name it, and it's represented--art, fashion, food, hand tools, horticulture, nightclub design, even scratch-and-sniff wallpaper (no really). I'll admit it though, i went because among the featured makers were milliners and costume production artist Sally Ann Parsons, for whom i have worked in past summers.

Here are some pix from the exhibit of some of my favorite pieces.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (me)
Last week, i went to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current Costume Institute exhibition, "Charles James: Beyond Fashion."

The short version is: if you are at all interested in unusual structure, tailoring, creative draping, and couture construction, find a way to go. I seriously think that if all i had done was fly to NYC, go to the exhibit, and fly right back home, it would have been worth it. The exhibit has been SO well-planned and well-executed. It's probably interesting to people who know nothing about how clothes are made, but boy, if you DO know anything about patternmaking and construction, you'll just lose your mind at how well-done it all is.

Not only are the garments displayed on forms, but there are robotic arms with cameras showing you seam placement details in parts of the garment that you cannot physically see, like the back of a displayed coat or up under the skirt of the cloverleaf gown. There are videos that explode and deconstruct the patterns of the gowns in 3D animation, and which show you all the different understructural layers, x-rays showing where the bones and hoops go, and so forth. Just fantastic.

The exhibit is in two parts--one large gallery on the main floor of the Met, and another portion in the basement where the Costume Institute used to be relegated, before they realized what massive appeal those exhibits would have. In the main-floor gallery are all the famous evening gowns--the Swan, the Umbrella, the Cloverleaf--and in the basement are day dresses, tailored suits, outerwear, and accessories, as well as design sketches, collection paperwork, scrapbooks, muslins and half-drapes, etc.

I got some photos to share....Pictures and a video )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
At the end of last month, i took a train trip up to Wilmington, DE, to take in the current exhibit at Winterthur Mansion and Museum, Costumes of Downton Abbey. The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015, and costs $20 to attend in 2-hour timeslots. Your admission buys you access to all the rest of Winterthur's galleries, grounds, and the mansion itself for the day you attend the DA exhibit and the day after. And, after the exhibit closes in January, it'll be moving to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC for a run there as well!

The exhibit features dozens of costumes from the show, displayed in tandem with artifacts from the Winterthur collection, such as dressing-table sets of the sort the aristocratic women in the show might own, or traveling trunks of the period. The costumes are displayed on forms without glass cases, so even though you can't touch them, you can really scrutinize the fabrics and trims and construction up close. Throughout, they have screens showing clips or stills from the show which depict the costumes in context, and in addition to the information about the materials and techniques used to make them, there are also graphics and information presented about the DuPonts at Winterthur (such as a photograph of a WInterthur footman preparing to serve dinner, next to a footman's uniform from Downton).

This is one of the best curated and most exciting costume exhibits i've had the good fortune to see, and i highly recommend checking it out, either at Winterthur or Biltmore. Heck, i'll probably go BACK to see how the exhibit changes when Biltmore incorporates their own historical documents and artifacts into its display.

But, without further ado, PICTURES. Because they had signs everywhere saying "please take photographs!"
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (history)
One of my favorite perks of doing a short-term contract in NYC is getting to check out exhibits at the various museums and galleries in the city. Of course there's cool stuff going on at my stand-bys like the Museum at FIT and the Met, but i stumbled upon a small exhibition at a historic home which turned out to be fantastic.

I'm staying in a sublet up in Washington Heights, and when i moved in, i did a little looking into neighborhood attractions and came across the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a home built in 1765 in which George Washington once slept. They've got an exhibit running by an artist/historian named Camilla Huey entitled "The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry and Binding."

Huey takes her inspiration from the lives of eight women whose lives entertwined with the statesman Burr--wives, daughters, wards, and lovers. She clearly did a great deal of research about the womens' lives, reading their correspondence and novels and memoirs and diaries, and the exhibit's two program booklets are fascinating peeks into the lives of an impressive range of women. Huey created art installation pieces within the context of the rooms of the mansion itself which incorporate corsetry and the written word, to evoke the lives of these women.

Upon entering the mansion, visitors encounter an enormous glowing resin coffin stuffed with onionskin, cotton fabric, and corset elements, representing the loss of Burr's daughter in a shipwreck. The spiraling open staircase is filled with a torrent of letters and documents, suspended from the bright red pannier-cage of Burr's last wife, Eliza Jumel, a woman born in a brothel who escaped prostitution, got an education, and became one of the wealthiest and most ruthless women in the late 18th century America.

Every installation in the exhibit is visually thought-provoking, and to see these pieces within the mansion itself in which Jumel and Burr once lived, 200 years ago, is incredibly moving. If you find yourself in NYC before the exhibit closes in September, it's only $5 admission. And, if you happen to go on a Sunday and wind up scooting in with a big tour bus group, it's only $2!

Here are a few images...
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (milliner)
While traveling and researching in the UK last month, I had the good fortune to check out the current exhibit at the Stockport Hat Museum, Hot Heads - Inspirational British Millinery, running through December 30 and showcasing ten of Britain's most talented contemporary milliners.

Each milliner has a single display case in which three to five hats are shown. Of course Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy had hats on display, and it was lovely to have the opportunity to get up close to their work, but in the world of couture millinery they are everywhere and expected--i was more excited about being able to see up-close the work of a couple lesser-known British milliners: Zara Gorman and J. Smith Esq. Gorman's display includes her acrylic, wood, and leather hats, while Smith's features a topper of fur and bone and a stained glass effect hat. In both cases the designs are striking and inspiring, but in both cases I admit to being a bit disenchanted at the finishing quality upon close inspection. Then again, both milliners are early in their careers and who knows what kind of runway shows the hats had been subjected to before display.

In addition to the displays, a video room loops three related videos featuring milliners Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones. Though i was not allowed to take photographs of the hats on display, thanks to YouTube and SHOWstudio i can share the videos.

Deborah Miller, a workroom milliner at Stephen Jones' atelier, making one of his signature designs.

In the second video, Philip Treacy talks about hatmaking while he creates a "feather salad" hat in real time. In this film, Treacy pulls out a roll of sparterie (aka willow, spartre, etc) and says he buys it from Japan. For all of us eternally on the hunt for a sparterie source, there's a lead! You can watch how he shapes his signature feathers as he talks, and there's some wonderful advice and reminiscence.

The third and final video in the exhibit is Stephen Jones presents "Glamour on a Budget, which is amusing enough I suppose but not nearly as educational from a skilled milliner's standpoint as the two others. It's more of a glimpse into Jones' personality than his craft.

In addition to the featured milliners, there is also a display of excellent designs by Welsh milliner Kate Jones of Milliflorae. Her hat of wood veneer curls won first runner up in the Talenthouse/Vogue/Stephen Jones millinery competition and I appreciated being able to see it up close as well--really lovely! Too bad her website mispells Stephen Jones' name in its splash page slide show...

In general, if you find yourself in the UK a visit to the Stockport museum is always worthwhile--i learn something new every time, even in perusing the permanent collection, and this current exhibit is worth a look for sure!
labricoleuse: (Default)
I'm abroad in the UK for the next month for research, scholarship, and fun, and I'm taking the opportunity to check out lots of museums and galleries while I'm at it. Anything relevant I'll share here, and more general travel journaling is happening in my travel blog.

Last week I visited some friends in Manchester, where I also got to see some of We Face Forward, a citywide exhibition of West African art, culture, and and artifacts spanning the collections and spaces of museums, galleries, libraries, and music venues across the city. I didn't have nearly the time to see it all, but did get to the textile art shown at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

I found the most compelling work to be in the first hall, in which were hung historical and contemporary fabrics and garments of West African origin. Though they were displayed in no discernable sequence, the pieces themselves were fascinating in their artisanship from a design perspective. 

Egregiously, though, the attached text barely addressed how the pieces had been made and by whom or placed them in any West African cultural context. Instead, the blurbs focused largely on who had donated them to the museum. Instead of telling viewers about the culture from which the piece came, how and why it was made and used and worn, we learned about a bunch of imperial/colonial white dudes and their families. The blurb would perhaps then say something about the work being indigo dyed with wax resist, with no explanation of what indigo dyeing entailed or what a wax resist process is--my friend who attended the exhibit with me and who is not familiar with textile artistry techniques found the descriptions useless, and we both found them culturally offensive.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
For my fortieth birthday last week, my dearest friend from highschool and i planned a special vacation--a retreat to the Grove Park Inn resort and spa in Asheville, NC. I could wax rhapsodic for pages about the beauty of the mountains, the fascinating history of the inn itself [1], the beautiful Mission style antiques filling every room and hallway and lounge, and the relaxing mineral spring pools in the spa. But, this blog is about craftwork, and the relevant info here is found in the galleries and art studios in the Asheville area.

The Grovewood Gallery is located on the grounds of the Inn, and features the work of over 500 artists and artisans in its 9000-ft gallery space. The buildings in which the gallery is housed were once the home of the Biltmore Industries' renowned weaving and woodworking facilities, and exhibits about the history of those workshops may be found both in the gallery itself and next door in the Homespun Museum installation.

As you can imagine, there's almost too much to look at--jewelry, furniture, stained glass panels and lamps, sculpture, paintings, pottery, fiber art and other wearables, you name it. One of my favorite artists featured is Ellyn Bernstein, who keeps a farm in Henderson, NC, and uses the wool of her sheep to create wearable art through the nuno felting technique.

Essentially, nuno felting is a variation on the traditional wool felting process in which woven silk serves as an integral part of the finished textile. Because the wool fibers shrink up and the silk fibers do not, the textural nature of the finished piece has a very interesting depth and complexity to it. Ellyn has an excellent overview page of her process on her website, here. She studied art and design in college and spent 13 years as a successful painter in Charlotte, NC, before embarking on the new focus of farming.

"With this change in my life, my medium changed," Ellyn says. "The sheep that I was now caring for were to be put to work and my felting began." She is involved in all steps of her process, from raising the sheep which provide the wool, to dyeing the fibers she uses to make her creations, creating the garment patterns, felting, sewing, embroidering, hand-finishig, you name it.

What really drew me to Ellyn's display at the Grovewood was a collection of her felt hats. As a milliner, I am always drawn to hats, but often i find in the arts/crafts gallery realm, the stylistic focus of the pieces displayed can be...well, fairly ordinary. The pieces tend to be made from beautiful materials, yes, but show a pedestrian millinery sensibility, and from a fashion standpoint can be utilitarian or even staid. Hand knitted caps, felted bretons and berets, with ornamentation that comes off as rote: a single fabric flower perhaps, a pompom or tassel. Which, fine, everyone wants warm ears in the wintertime but where's the adventure or the spark in a knit toboggan, no matter how cool the yarn from which it is made?

This is where Ellyn's work really leapt off the shelf: her shapes are far more adventurous and contain an element of the glamourous, often peaked and folded into dramatic shapes reminiscent of the svelte cloches, whimsical toques, exotic turbans, and sophisticated bicornes of 1920s millinery.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
The past few days, a contingent of us from the UNC-Chapel Hill graduate program in costume production attended the regional conference for USITT-Southeast.

Regional conferences can be kind of hit-or-miss, depending on how far you have to travel to go to one, who's running it, and how the luck of th programming draw falls. Sometimes the conference turns out better for say, scenic folks than costume folks depending on who they get as guests and presenters. This year was a good one for us, in that we were able to travel to Athens in a university van (so, no travel costs for our students) and one of the guests of honor was renowned Broadway fabric painter Margaret Peot, who also teaches fabric painting at Tisch. [1]

Margaret conducted two workshops on different fabric painting techniques, which i'll be writing up over the next few days, but i thought i'd post a series of images from her own work as a first-look sort of thing. She brought a huge selection of paint samples and gave a talk the first morning on her own career and experiences, kind of like a portfolio presentation, almost, in that it included a slide show full of stage shots, design renderings, and fitting photos of various costumes for which she's done paintwork. Her career has so far spanned from Cats to Spiderman, so it was an incredible array of what amounts to Broadway costume production surface-design history of the past 20 years, really.

Here are a few of the photos i took:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Today, the second part of the exhibit of Philip Treacy's hat blocks at the Tate Liverpool in the UK. All of the photos were taken by my dear friend and hat enthusiast Califia Davis. Check out Part One of the series posted yesterday as well!

Today's images include blocks for hats such as this iconic hat of Isabella Blow's (displayed next to Treacy's original sparterie version the block carver was working from), some of the blocks in this design sketch of Treacy's, and this dramatic hat.

Again, I love being able to see where the rope-lines are on these pieces, and where the hats come apart into different blocked sections, based on these images! The oblique views are great to see the side dimensions of the blocks, and the close-ups of the portrait blocks as well--I've never seen that "pop art/portrait" collection up close in person, and assumed they were flat digital prints or lithographs mounted on headbands and fascinator bases, not images screened onto blocked dimensional bases!

Now, starting panoramically down the fourth of the six displays:

Read more... )

And, because voting is open for another four days:

Have you voted for my entry in the Stephen Jones hat contest yet? Don't limit yourself to just my entry--look through the rest of them as well and be sure to vote for as many as you like! I don't really view this as a competition so much as a festival of millinery arts, where visibility for all of us and support for as many talented milliners as possible can only be a good thing.

One concern that a few folks have mentioned is, you have to allow the Talenthouse application access to your Facebook information in order to vote. This is to make sure people aren't shilling with duplicate votes (which, of course you could create a bunch of separate fake Facebook accounts and there's a loophole in everything, but that's the general idea), you can always rescind accessibility from it after you vote. Under "Account Settings," choose "Applications" from the left sidebar, and just remove Talenthouse.

Though, you might wait til you have looked at ALL the great hats and voted for as many as you like, and for that matter, you might even decide to participate in the Talenthouse community after all--they have some great contests with some serious heavy-hitters for folks in all disciplines of the arts, everything from designing a visual identity for the English National Ballet for graphic artists, to an opening gig at Rain in Vegas with Paul Oakenfold for DJs. It's a fairly high-visibility forum for your work! But, if your concern with voting is FB-access-related, there you go: how to disable it afterward.

And, because I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk: tomorrow I'm embarking on a series of posts featuring OTHER entrants in the contest whose work I admire, my "picks" in the contest, as it were. If I were part of the judging committee, these will be the milliners and hats i'd have shortlisted!
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
Much to my chagrin, i very narrowly missed an exhibit at the Tate Liverpool while abroad this summer--six shelves of Philip Treacy's wood and sparterie hat blocks on display!

It opened a little over two weeks after I was in Stockport for the Hat Museum, dammit. The exhibit is not terribly well-publicized, in that you need to page through the exhibit description to even find out that Treacy was one of the guest curators and makes no mention of the presence of his hat blocks. However, my wonderful friend Califia Davis, who is not a milliner but is a hat-lover and accompanied me to the Hat Museum, did go to see it just today and sent me a trove of detail shots! I'm so thankful to her to be able to see these, and to share them!

Califia sent me so many photos, i'm going to break it up into two posts, and this is the first, in which we have shots of the first three shelves in the exhibit.

One of the things i find so exciting about these images is, if you are familiar with his work, you know exactly which hats came from which blocks, and the opportunity to see things like where the ropelines are carved for shapes like this and this is a great deal of fun.

Here they are, panoramically down the first three shelves...

Read more... )

That's it for now, but tomorrow I'll be sharing images from the other three shelves, just as many MORE amazing hat blocks to see!

And, have you voted for my entry in the Stephen Jones hat contest yet?

Thank you so much for your support, every vote is valuable!
labricoleuse: (frippery)
On my way to Scotland, i took a detour to Manchester, England, to visit friends and to check out Hat Works, the Museum of Hatting in Stockport. I've had that museum on my someday-list for years, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to finally go check it out.

The museum takes up three storeys of an old hatting factory, and displays include a felting manufactory, hat body forming machines, a block-carving workshop, a Victorian era millinery shop, and hundreds of beautiful hats from antiquity to au courant. There is also a research library filled with books, periodicals, notes and letters, images, and videos.

If you ever find yourself in England, hop a short train to Manchester and check it out! I went with a friend who knows nothing of millinery and she loved it, too. Admission is free, and the gift shop has neat things like hats (no surprise there), logo swag useful to milliners like pencils and rulers, postcards, and two books on the history of the regional Hatting industry. I bought both books and will likely review them in a future post but for now, here are a few selections from the photos I took.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
While in San Miguel last month, i had the brilliant opportunity to visit The Other Face of Mexico, a mask and folk art museum featuring over 500 masks on display, video of indigenous dances, and a gallery of over 200 masks for purchase.

The museum is run by Bill and Heidi LeVasseur of the Casa de la Cuesta bed and breakfast hacienda. (Coincidentally, Bill is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, too!) You have to contact them for an appointment to see the museum--it doesn't have standard hours. Admission is 50 pesos (under $5).

Bill has collected indigenous masks for 22 years, traveling to remote villages, recording video of the dances and talking with the mask artisans about their craft and culture. He's a fount of amazing info on indigenous Mexican cultures' maskmaking and performing, and clearly loves his subject. Here are some of my notes from the museum and Bill's talk about masking in Mexico:

Of 170 million Mexican citizens, 12 million of them cite their tribal affiliation as their nationality, rather than "Mexico."

No mask is considered authentic unless a dancer has worn it in performance; the masks are "baptized" by use, and an unworn mask is considered incomplete.

Dancers are always men, even if the mask is for a female character.

The masks' origins can be sourced by the woods used to carve them.

Some of the media used in various masks in the museum: Christmas bows and tinsel garland, boar tusks, donkey teeth, compact mirrors, coconut shells & gourds, various woods, mache, vintage top hats Padding is wads of paper or old socks/towels. Some are tied onto the face with long cords. Some have eyes that close when they move, like babydolls do.

Some masks are made in a smaller-than-face-sized scale, to make the performer seem larger in stature.

Inscriptions on the masks are often dedications to the lovers of the mask artisans.

The indigenous masked dances are for several different occasions: historical dances, performance of Christian stories, occupational dances, agricultural dances, entertainment.

Christ is never masked in religious dances.

We weren't allowed to take photos in the museum itself, but selections from the museum's collection will be featured in Deborah Bell's forthcoming book, Maskmakers and Their Craft: An Illustrated Worldwide Study (out Sept 3, 2010). We *were* allowed to take them in the gallery of masks for sale, so i have some images from that area, as well as photos of masks i purchased. The gallery was much more cluttered than the museum, so a lot of the pix are just stuffed with masks to look at!

masks galore! )
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
So, first order of business: [ profile] labricoleuse will ostensibly be on hiatus for the month of July. I'm spending July in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and though there might be a couple things topical that come up, i don't expect to have a lot of time or fodder for the type of things i typically post here. I might have a link or two to share, so don't forget to like La Bricoleuse on Facebook. If you like, you can follow my sporadic travelogue on Blogspot, and i'll catch you all in August!

At some point, i'll write up the exhibit properly, but for now, here are some photos from the exhibit American High Style at the Brooklyn Museum.

shoes, hats, a parasol )
labricoleuse: (design)
Here's the second half of the pile of pictures from the hall of arms and armor at the Metropolitan.

The photo quality on some of these isn't the best--shooting with a hand-held camera through display glass with whatever light you've got in the room isn't ideal. A lot of these are meant as potential references for topics we discuss in armor class, though--photo examples of real suits of armor to illustrate various concepts like the padded leather fencing doublet you saw in the previous post, or examples of attachment methods in this one. This one is largely all partial or complete suits of various kinds of plate, for the most part.

Again, all photos are courtesy of Kaitlin Fara.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (Default)
While in NYC a couple weeks ago, one of our grad students and i hit up the Metropolitan Museum for their Costume Collection exhibit, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity.

It was a pretty good exhibit, though a bit less immersive than i'm used to seeing at the Met--the rooms weren't decorated with any of the usual striking set-dressing that past exhibits like Anglo-Mania had, and the bizarre conceptual hair-don'ts on the mannquins were a jarring visual element that didn't work for me juxtaposed with how traditional the clothing and background design elements were. There were definitely highlights (an 18th-century shoe trunk, wonderful period fans), and it's worth seeing, but we couldn't photograph inside so if you want to see some examples, hit the gallery and the database on the exhibit link up there.

But, photography was allowed inside the permanent exhibits (no flash), so my student took a pile of photos in the armor hall! First up, helmets and sabatons and other pieces...

All photos are courtesy of Kaitlin Fara.

photos behind cut )
labricoleuse: (top hats!)
While in NYC last week, i took a day trip up to the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT, where they are hosting an exhibit on the history of the top hat. "Top This! History of Top Hats," is curated by Stacey Danielson and features a selection of top hats on loan from Reginald Borgia, who was vice president of the Hat Corporation of America, a premier American hat manufacturer in Norwalk in the 1930s-1970s. There's a great article on Borgia and the history of the Norwalk hat industry in this April edition of the Norwalk Citizen.

Throughout the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, Norwalk and Danbury were the hatmaking capitals of America, when it came to the manufacture of blocked hat styles from felt and straw for both men and women. The exhibit is not mentioned at all on the LMMM website, nor is the cost of admission ($10). I found out about it via a hatmaker's newsletter. In the gift shop, i met one of the women whose father's top hat collection contributed to the exhibit; they were very excited i'd come so far just to see their hats!

The exhibit was small, contained just within the music room of the mansion, but featured probably around 30 hats, over a dozen hatboxes and top hat luggage cases, as well as a display of blocks and tools. I enjoyed the display showing top hats made from wool felt, beaver felt, silk faille, and silk plush, for the opportunity to contrast their appearance. It was also cool to see a rounding jack that was 200 years old, but i have to say, mine made by Mark DeCou is way better! :)

In the gift shop, i purchased two excellent books, both by hat historian Debbie Henderson: The Top Hat: An Illustrated History, and Hat Talk: Conversations with Hat Makers about Their Hats--the Fedora, Homburg, Straw, and Cap.

My god, people, get these books if you are at all interested in mens hats!

The Top Hat contains much of the notecard label text from the Norwalk exhibit, as well as a lot of great photos and engravings and info about the history of the style. Most excellent, however, is its appendices, in which Henderson reprints two pamphlets from 1942, "How a Silk Hat is Made" and "How an Opera Hat is Made." They explain in detail exactly how old-style toppers and collapsible toppers were manufactured, including photos and diagrams.

Hat Talk is more of a rich oral history of the hatting industry, and is largely a series of interview transcripts that Henderson conducted with really old men who'd worked in the hat industry before it largely folded--blockers, foremen, salesmen, guys from companies like Knox, Stetson, Dobbs, Borsalino, Cavanaugh, Bollman--plus tons of sales literature images reproduced throughout. Also highly recommended, but if you only get one, get The Top Hat for those appendices.

And, if you find yourself up that-a-way, check out the exhibit and the beautiful Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum!

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