Review: Grace and Glamour: 1930’s Fashion at the American Textile History Museum

Courtesy of the American Textile History Museum.

Grace and Glamour: 1930’s Fashion at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, tells the story of the tumultuous Thirties through an exhibition of thirty-five dresses, accessories and sample fabric pattern books. The dresses are primarily drawn from the Peggy Cone Collection at the museum with a few loans from Lasell College.

Three dresses from the Twenties set the stage for the spectacle that was to become the Thirties. Their boxy outlines embody the masculine-like fashion tendencies of the times. These dresses obscured female curves and fashion details that defined the 1930’s.

The Thirties were economically scarred by the stock market crash of 1929, but as the exhibition hints at, the decade was also marked by architectural and technological innovations. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and the 1939 New York World’s Fair brought with them new ideas and cross-cultural exchanges that changed the era. The spirit and aspirations of the times are reflected in the art, architecture and industrial design produced.

The Art Deco and Streamline Moderne gave America masterpieces such as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City. Popular in cities like Miami, Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma, Art Deco embraced the machine, and gave birth to bold geometric patterns and linear symmetry in art, architecture, fashion and industrial design. Adrian Adolph Greenberg, Nina Ricci, Elsa Schiaparelli and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel became influential fashion designers of the time. Schiaparelli commissioned artists such as Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Cocteau to design fabric and accessories that promoted broad shoulders and accentuated small waistlines.

Courtesy of the American Textile History Museum.

The unflattering boyish look of the Twenties was abandoned for a more form fitting and feminine silhouette.  The introduction of man-made fabrics like rayon, acetate and tricot allowed designers and manufacturers to produce inexpensive garments that felt and appeared luxurious.

While the objects in the exhibition provide enough context to understand the times, many references to architecture and film are made throughout, but seldom acted upon. Connecting architectural ideas with fashion and film produced in the Thirties would have allowed for a jazzier thrilling experience.

Grace and Glamour: 1930’s Fashion is best experienced clockwise as the dresses are organized chronologically, tracing the development of fashion in the Thirties and hinting at challenges that were to plague the following decade. The exhibition closes on October 16, 2011.

It’s a Mad, Mad, World: Fashion Advertisements from the 1950′s

In the last installment of this series, you saw liquor advertisements taken out of 1950’s New Yorker Magazines.  I went back to the Brattle Bookshop and bought 15 more 1950’s New Yorker Magazines (1953 through 1955, in the last post, the images were taken out of 1956 through 1959 New Yorker Magazines). I have found more liquor advertisements which I will post in the future, but for now, let’s look at some fashion advertisements.

First, I do apologize for the lack of text, interpretation, explanation or description to go along with these great images.  One thing I will say is that finding images of men’s fashion was a challenge. Liquor for the men and fashion for women?

I am working on a few posts which have led me to conduct some research into the history of the Container Corporation of America and their amazingly designed advertisements (also found in mid-century New Yorker magazines) which included teachers from the Bauhaus and other masters of Graphic Design.

To me fashion DOES NOT need ANY explanations, so here we go:

By the way, this is how the advertisement was designed with the frame and text off center. I thought it was very interesting that the text was placed as if it is being pushed off the page by the “weight” of the frame around the image.

Review: Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings

Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ BAG Gallery is the culmination of artist’s residency at the school. Rahman, born in Lahore, Pakistan is the first visiting Fulbright scholar at SMFA and explores religion and myth within contemporary society through gut-wrenching imagery and symbolism.

The exhibition features 22 works which investigate “manipulation, through the exercise of power of strength, of evil [and] of temptation.” The story of Creation, our idea of Heaven and Hell, and the down fall of Pride are re-imagined into provocative and at times unbearable images.

The anguish projected though No Words Written, 2010, Fallen Angel, 2011, Was it Knowledge, Apples or Even Pears?, 2010 is in-escapable. Our imagination of what Heaven and Hell would feel and look like is challenged through the inclusion of mutilated bodies juxtaposed with the light and at times seductive colors on the canvas.

The works completed by Rahman during her residency are all about triggering the viewer’s emotions. The hallway where these works are shown limit the viewer from experiencing the same “journey from within” the artist describes in her statement. These new paintings and etchings are powerful, but the constant walking back and forth by school’s employees and students detract from the works’ potential impact on the viewer.

Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings at the BAG Gallery, 230 The Fenway, Boston is on view until June 30, 2011.

IMAGE: Laila Rahman, Armoured Memories, 2011. Oil and graphite on canvas. 36 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

It’s a Mad, Mad, World: Liquor Advertisements from the 1950’s

Last week I stumbled upon a sale of vintage New Yorker magazines at the Brattle Book Shop on West Street in Downtown Crossing. Intrigued by the advertisements, I purchased 20 random issues from the 1950’s with the goal of scanning some of its pages and using the advertisements for future blog posts.

Given the popularity of Mad Men (I’ve never seen the show, although I’ve promised many friends I will start watching it soon) everything and anything that is 50’s and 60’s is very much sought after today. I’ll be the first one to admit it, I am a fanatic of the design and fashion produced in decade of the fifties and sixties in America.  I love mixing fifties and sixties fashion pieces with more contemporary ones and spending countless hours in flea markets and thrift stores searching for that one item someone considered trash, yet to me it’s a treasure (like a 1960’s typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli I got for $2! And yes, it works just fine and looks great too)!

This past Sunday I visited the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design to experience an exhibition everyone has been raving about: Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980. This fantastic exhibition explores every aspect of the culture surrounding the cocktail through a variety of media including fashion, jewelry, furniture, barware, textiles, photography and film. If you are in New England, please do not miss this exhibition!

Although cocktail culture today is not as popular as it was in the 1920’s through the 1980’s, classic cocktail bars are definitely making a comeback. 

Advertising is the focus of Mad Men, but again so are the cocktails. Here are a few, mostly full page liquor advertisements I scanned from mid-century New Yorker magazines.

Do you have any favorites? Why? You can click on each image to enlarge it.