Backstage at the Goldstein: Merry and Bright

Readers,

Here is another item from the Goldstein Museum of Design that I came across when I was working on the donor files project. It is one of several hats, all from the 1950s or ’60s, donated by Mrs. John Gill.

(Note to self: find her first name!)

Of all Mrs. Gill’s hats–at least, of all the ones photographed so far for the Goldstein’s image database–only one is of “normal” size. The rest, including this one, are miniature masterpieces.christmashat4 (368x460)

I’m assuming she chose these for herself and that she wore them. I do hope she wore them.

Of course, at the time of their making, wearing hats was a norm–not something you had to be particularly brave to do.christmashat3 (368x460)

(That reminds me: in Minneapolis about twenty years ago I was walking through Dayton’s department store wearing a handsome olive-colored felt hat–a Homburg?–by Eric Javits. A woman admired my hat and then told me,  “I wish I had the courage to wear a hat.” Gosh.)

Looking at her hats, I wonder what kind of person Mrs. John Gill was.

Judging from this hat in particular, surely she must have had a sense of humor.  A humorless person wouldn’t give this a second glance, let alone buy it and wear it.christmashat2 (368x460)

I also see her having a strong sense of style and fashion confidence. You wouldn’t wear this and expect to melt into the crowd (at least not the crowds I’m around), after all.

I wonder where this hat was on display, waiting for the right wearer to come along. What salesperson in the hat department shared that moment of triumph when Mrs. John Gill perched this confection on her head, arranged the flirty netting over her face, admired her reflection in the mirror and said, “Yes–I’ll take it!”?

I wonder what Mrs. John Gill wore with this. Where did she wear it? And what did people say?christmashat1 (368x460)

Most of all, I wonder who fashioned this bit of millinery whimsy. The museum record states, sadly, “Artist/Maker: Unknown.”

Dear Unknown Artist/Maker, wherever you may be, thank you for this example of dexterous wit.

And thank you, too, Mrs. John Gill–and Goldstein Museum of Design–for safekeeping it for our enjoyment.

To see other hats donated to the Goldstein by Mrs. John Gill:

  • Click here: http://goldstein.design.umn.edu/
  • Hover over the Collection tab.
  • Click on Search the Collection
  • In the Word Search box type Gill. Click on Search.
  • There will be 41 records, some of which have images.

(All photographs by the Goldstein Museum of Design.)

Backstage at the Goldstein: Tutti Frutti

Readers,

Yummy.

Cheery.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been volunteering weekly in the offices of the Goldstein Museum of Design on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, tidying up the donor files.  The Goldstein collection includes furniture, textiles, silver and ceramics, but the largest part is clothing and accessories. The files I see each week contain the paperwork–deeds of gift, acknowledgment letters, and inventories of donations–involved in changing the ownership of property.

Inside the cherry hat.

Inside the cherry hat.

Every week I find something in a file–the original charge slip for a hat, an obituary, a yellowed society page showing a bride in the wedding gown that’s now in the Goldstein’s care–that personalizes the donation. Today I paged through the file of a donor who’d left the Goldstein the dress she wore at the 1953 presidential  inaugural ball. The folder was thick with special edition newspaper sections and inaugural programs saved for sixty years.

Delectable.

Delectable.

Many other files are thin and nondescript. There may, however, be photos of the donations online that tell a lot about the donor’s taste, travels, or family connections.

The Goldstein’s collections are gradually being documented in photos. It’s always a treat to look up a donor and find items that have been prepared and photographed so beautifully.

Especially when I see hats I think of the moment the wearer looked at herself approvingly in the mirror at the hat shop and decided, “Yes, this is the one.”

Today I came across the records of these two 1950s hats embellished with fruits of summer:

  • Catalog no. 2004.022.003: From 1950, by Elsa Schiaparelli: “White Hat with White Beading and Strawberry & Vine Design.”

    Bella!

    Bella!

  • Catalog no. 1979.015.019: From 1957-51959, by Peck & Peck: “Natural Straw Boater-Style Hat With A Black Velvet Ribbon Around Crown With Streamers and Fake Cherry Cluster Decoration.”

A few weeks back I discovered this suit with these delightful strawberry buttons:

  • Catalog no. 2003.052.035a-b: From 1990-1995, by Franco Moschino: “White cotton pique jacket with strawberry buttons and short skirt.”

Scrumptious.

Delizioso!

Delizioso!

 

There are more photographs of each of these items in the Goldstein Museum of Design database.  Go to the home page, click on the Collection tab, then “Search the Collection,” and then enter the catalog numbers.

All photographs are by the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Backstage at the Goldstein: Polka Dots

Readers,

Polka dot sophistication.

Polka dot sophistication. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Image consultant Brenda Kinsel asked a question on her Facebook page May 24 that caught my eye:

I’m reading the book Wear This Now. In their list of ten things to toss now, #2 is “Anything with polka dots. Even if they come back in season briefly, they never last, and more often than not, you end up looking like a five-year-old in them.”

Agree or disagree? Or strongly disagree?

Lots of comments followed, many strongly favoring polka dots.

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Me? I love polka dots. But there’s much more to polka dots than the dots. How about

  • the size of the dots and the spacing between them
  • the colors of the dots and of the background
  • the amount of color contrast
  • the texture and drape of the fabric
  • the combination of dots with other patterned or plain fabrics
  • the silhouettes of the garments

    (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

    (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Pondering the many facets of using polka dots, what did I find in the Goldstein Museum of Design office on my latest volunteer work assignment but a rack of polka-dotted garments, perhaps pulled for student research.

Some of the garments read awfully busy and trendy to my eye. But one polka-dotted dress on the rack stood out from all the rest in its timelessness and sophistication.

Here’s the description of item number 1997.023.056a:

Short Dress and Bubble Capelet In Sheer Pink Fabric Printed With Large Forest Green Polka Dots Over Pink Linen. Dress Is Sleeveless and Has Princess Seaming In The Bodice and A Gathered Knee-Length Skirt. Back Has Two Emerald Green Velvet Bows Placed At The Waistline and Neck Snap Closures. Bodice Has Open Keyhole Back.

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

This dress by Jane Derby is dated between 1958 and 1962.

Polka dots: fresh and forever.

Backstage at the Goldstein: Tour and Tea

Readers,

A 1920s dress adorning one of the mannequins in the Goldstein Museum's offices.

A 1920s dress adorning one of the mannequins in the Goldstein Museum’s offices.

I mentioned recently that I volunteer one morning a week for the Goldstein Museum of Design on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.  I’ve been wanting to show you what it’s like to be back in the office space, where every week I may see hats, handbags, shoes, scarves, dresses, textiles, or ceramics pulled from storage for study by College of Design students or outside researchers.

Fortuny cloak and dress in the Goldstein office space.

Fortuny cloak and dress in the Goldstein office space.

I got my chance last Saturday when Jack and I attended a new members’ tour and tea with a Downton Abbey theme.  Curator Jean McElvain pulled some 1920s garments, hats, handbags, an ostrich feather fan, fashion illustrations, ceramics, and a Paul Poiret-designed textile for our group to admire up close.

Jean McElvain, curator, wears cotton gloves to handle fragile artifacts.

Jean McElvain, curator, wears cotton gloves to handle fragile artifacts.

Then our little group of 7 or 8 got to go back into climate-controlled compact storage to see just a sample of the Goldstein’s evening wear–a cabinet of Bill Blass dresses and coats from the 1960s and ’70s.  We were so cramped back there photography was just about impossible.

Luckily, one of the dresses we saw has been photographed for the Goldstein’s image database.  This silk voile dress from his spring 1970 collection is light, bright, and floaty.

Dress by Bill Blass, 1970. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Dress by Bill Blass, 1970. (photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

We also got to see how the Goldstein’s many shoes are stored: in these nifty holders that allow viewing and moving without touching the fragile contents. Natasha opened a cabinet of shoes from a time all of us visitors could easily remember: the ’70s. (I was tempted to poke around in the 1930s and ’40s cabinets. I’ve seen those shoes, and they’re wonderful.)

1970s shoes in their protective carriers.

1970s shoes in their protective carriers.

Then our group moved on to another area that was like Grandma’s attic times a thousand–that is, if Grandma were an archivist and her attic was a climate-controlled, archivally-designed storage space. Drawers and doors had been opened for us to peek at decades-old wedding dresses, day dresses, menswear, textiles, hats, and children’s shoes.

Jack caught me admiring some of the Goldstein's many hats.

Jack caught me admiring some of the Goldstein’s many hats.

Our last stop was at the Goldstein’s current show, Redefining, Redesigning Fashion: Designs for Sustainability, where we saw garments imaginatively fashioned from recycled table linens, thrift store clothes, fur, throw-away packaging, even branches that had been sliced into coins.

To round out the program, we enjoyed excellent scones with clotted cream, tea sandwiches and macaroons and learned about the Goldstein’s 30,000-item collection, including about 23,000 items of apparel; furniture, textiles, silver, and ceramics.IMG_2515 (460x345)

Only about 15 percent of the collection has been photographed so far in a multi-year project. An elaborate wedding dress can take a workday of steaming and styling by a professional to ready it for its closeups, so the process of producing images can be slow. But just search the Goldstein’s image database and see the fabulous results, available to anyone with a computer.

IMG_2511 (345x460)

Just one of many cabinets brimming with treasures. There’s no end to the variety in sleeve designs.

Our limited time with the Goldstein’s collections only whetted our appetites for more.  With my weekly exposure to the richness and variety of its holdings, the stories of its donors through my work with the files, and seeing the everyday activities surrounding the preparation and development of programming, we’re going to become regular visitors.

Backstage at the Goldstein: Sleeveless Dress, 1920s

Readers,

(Photo: Goldstein Museum of Design.)

(Photo: Goldstein Museum of Design.)

This morning, May 2, I put on a spring green cashmere sweater, a wool tweed jacket I made from a 1941 pattern with dark blue-green threads running through it, chocolate brown pants, my duck’s egg blue belted topper made from a 1950 pattern, and vintage 1950s French cherry red rain shoes. I was doing my best to dress both for warmth and for spring.

(Photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

(Photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

It was only 38 degrees when I walked out the door at 8 am to catch my bus to the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota–but I felt lucky, because at least the Twin Cities dodged the storm that blanketed a strip of southeastern Minnesota with over a foot of snow overnight.

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

While working with museum donor files in my volunteer job at the Goldstein I came across the file of Angela Coleman Foster. Here is one of the garments she donated to the museum.  Dating from the 1920s by an unknown maker, it is a breath of spring and summer. No, not a breath but two bracing lungfuls.  Just what I needed.

Here’s the museum description:

Sleeveless dress extends to just below knee length with uneven hem at back, rounded neckline in front with no collar, and lower rounded neckline in back, fabric is sheer peach with yellow, pink, red, purple, and green floral pattern, drop waist with wide gathered waistband, back sash and bow, peach underdress with sheer shoulder straps.

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

(photo: Goldstein Museum of Design)

Angela Coleman Foster, thank you.

And unknown maker, thank you.1920sdress3