After spotting the event on Facebook for the WOW Factor: 150 Years of Collecting Bold Clothes inside of the Chisolm Halle Costume Wing at the Cleveland History Center, I picked up the phone last Thursday and made a cold call to the Western Reserve Historical Society. I didn't even have all the details- I just knew it involved vintage fashion and a ticket price that was not in my budget at the moment lol. Luckily, I got connected with the gracious Lauren Welch, marketing manager at the museum and she enthusiastically invited me to the fabulous exhibit that took place on April 28th.
The WOW Factor alludes to the "clothing's ability to inspire feelings of wonder, and awe," and there was no better way to experience that than through this amazing exhibit that highlighted garments and accessories designed by Clevelanders and international designers, worn by prominent Cleveland area taste makers over the past 150 years. There were dresses designed by couturiers Bill Blass, Courreges, Carolina Herrara, Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and Fortuny as well as modern contributions from Cleveland designers Russell Trusso, Valerie Mayen and Denajua.
The pink cashmere Givenchy number above was donated by actress Audrey Hepburn while in town as an ambassador for UNICEF.She visited the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing and gifted this piece from her 1969 wedding to Andrea Dotti. Her son donated the matching headscarf later on...
The 100 piece collection of garments, accessories, fine jewelry and works of art was curated by Patty Edmonson and separated into four sections: Confidence, Effervescence, Romance and Whimsy. Relying on color, textile, silhouette and sequins to help convey the boldness of the women who wore them- stylish, independent and fierce- the wearers ranged from scholars and philanthropists to artists and CEOs.
There was also a men's section featuring a very small collection of men's garments, shoes and accessories that were so fancy and classic that I totally would wear today (if I could get into them- vintage is notoriously small which you can tell by comparing Lebron James' size 15 basketball shoe to an 18th century man of leisure's house slipper lol). I can just imagine President Garfield, chilling in his Mentor home- luxuriating in his silk two pocket robe with the embroidered birds cascading down the front, tied tightly at the waist to show off his figure lol.
The menswear, though a small, was just as decorative as the women with their heavily embellished robes and shoes, gold stamped war boots and intricately embroidered braces (suspenders) from the 1890s.
The women's accessories were comparable to the iciness of your favorite most flashiest rapper- diamonds and jewels glistened under the LED lights, so I can only imagined how they hopped and danced on the ears, necks and wrists of Cleveland's elite. The petite heavily embellished shoes were fancily made with sumptuous fabrics, feathers, jewels, sequins and embroidery and finished with the perfect block heel. And back in the day an outfit was not complete without a hat and glove of some sort.
Guests were treated to an open bar, delicious appetizers and a warm welcome by Kelly Falcone Hall- President and CEO of the Western Historical Reserve Society, and then we heard from Patty Edmonson, MAC Curator of Costumes and Textiles. There was an "Off the Rack" presentation, a meet and greet, a catalog signing of the beautiful keepsake exhibit book, (the first costume publication for WHRS in the last 30 years) and a WOW Factor pop up shop. It really was a magical wow inducing night!
I loved looking at the exquisite pieces; blindly guessing about the women that owned them, their lifestyles and where they might have worn the outfit showcased, and then I looked at the blurb that provided the correct info about the ladies and compared my imagination to the real answers. I loved the fact that they had information about the donors- who they were, what they did, where they wore the outfit and some even had larger than life portraits on display in front of the clothes which was an extra special visual treat. Often when I visit thrift and vintage shops I make up stories anyway and this played right my fascination. I had to stop myself several times from walking into the glass encasement and reaching out to touch the garments lol.
Please do yourself a favor and go see these vintage wearable art pieces for yourself while you can! You have plenty of time since the exhibit will run through April 22, 2018 and you can find out more information on the WRHS.org website.
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