Thursday, May 26, 2011

Exhibit showcases women’s student clothing

A exhibit at Vassar College examines the evolution of women’s student fashions from the 1860s to the 1950s.

This silk moire taffeta day dress with leg-o’-mutton sleeves dates from about 1895. The decorative velvet lapels and stand-up collar are inspired by menswear. According to the student curators, these details bespeak the desire for college-educated women to fit into a male world during the Gilded Age.

The exhibit gives a rare opportunity for artists to sketch antique dresses from observation. I made the drawing with violet and ochre colored pencils and a water brush. The dress was green, but I didn’t bring any green pencils, so I just picked two opposite colors and let them duke it out.

Fashioning an Education:  150 Years of Vassar Students and What They Wore is at the James W. Palmer III Gallery at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York through June 12, 2011. It's free and open to the public. The exhibition will be open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00pm. For more information, call 845.437.5250.

While you’re in town, Vassar’s art museum also has an exhibit on Thomas Rowlandson and a nice collection of Hudson River School sketches. Nearby at the Mill Street Loft is the “Our Towns” cityscape exhibit.

Related book: Clothing through American History: Civil War through the Gilden Age
Caran d’Ache pencils
Niji water brush


Mike Yamada said...

Sounds like a great exhibit to see fashion in person. were there many people? I've been trying unsuccessfully to sketch at a few fashion exhibits at museums and the sheer number of people in the space has been making it near impossible. If you are interested in sheer crazy, there is a great alexander mcqueen exhibit at the met in new york.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly before I read the notes I thought " I wonder if its Taffeta...." U captured the two tone nature of that fabric really well!

James Gurney said...

Arden Kirkland of Vassar's fashion collection did a post with more information about the dress and its rehabilitation: