Tag Archives: Atlanta History Center

The Atlanta History Center

While in Atlanta a few weeks ago, I revisited the Atlanta History Center.  My main reason for visiting was to see the latest fashion exhibition, Fashion in Good Taste, but I also took the time to look through the permanent galleries.  It seems like there is always something great to study in the exhibition halls.

Above is a pair of stockings made by Mrs. Henry Clay Hughes in Roswell, which is just north of Atlanta, from her own home-grown cotton.  Circa 1913.

The Atlanta History Center seems to have this overwhelming desire to put everything behind glass, so I’m sorry that the photos are so poor.  From the North Georgia Collins family, accomplished weavers.

English lace making by Betty Kemp.  My mind is officially blown.

It seems like the latest thing in museum curation is the “??? in 50 objects” exhibition.  The Atlanta History Center got in on the trend with Atlanta in 50 Objects.  This is a 1969 Delta Airlines (which is based in Atlanta) stewardess uniform.  It has a sort of mod-meets-granny vibe.

I’ve written about the “Fabulous Fox” before, and it is scary to think about how close Atlanta came to losing this theater.  In 1974 Atlantans joined to raise $3,000,000 to save the theater, which was slated for demolition.  The property was bought by a newly-formed non-profit, and today, instead of a parking garage, the Fox still is home to live performances.

Rich’s was Atlanta’s biggest department store, before being gobbled up by Federated Department Stores (later, the Macy’s chain).  Starting in 1959 Priscilla the Pink Pig monorail took children on a tour over the toy department each Christmas.

The exhibit above is a bit puzzling, as the items are actually more connected to Athens, Georgia, than with Atlanta.  The dress, wigs, and boots belonged to Cindy Wilson of the B-52s.  Wilson designed the dress (see her sketch) which was worn in performances and on the cover of Whammy! their 1983 album.

Before the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, Atlanta was home to a minor league baseball team called the Atlanta Crackers. Above is a boy’s uniform from the early days of the team.

Unfortunately, the utilization of so many artifacts combined with the use of glass made for poor viewing of some exhibits.  The visual clutter was quite distracting at times.

Both the suit and the “Votes for Women” sash date to 1918.   The original owner of neither was identified, and it was not made clear whether the suit was actually worn by a woman working for the right to vote.

There was this great display of bathing attire, which was easier to see than my photo suggests.  The white object on the right is a set of Ayvad’s Water-Wings.   The bathing suit on the right was identified as a man’s suit, but I’m not so sure.  By the 1920s, when this suit was made and worn, the tank portion of men’s suits had developed deep armholes.

Of all the objects shown in Atlanta in 50 Objects, this carpetbag is possibly the most significant.  After the end of the Civil War, many Northerners moved south, looking to profit from Reconstruction policies.  These “carpetbaggers” were often poor, and used bags made from carpet scraps to carry their belongings.  Outsiders to the region are still sometimes referred to as carpetbaggers.

And what would a Southern history museum be without its Civil War displays?  I love a great sailor middy, and so here is one.  It really has no connection to Atlanta that I could tell, being worn by Stephen Roach, a sailor in the Union Navy.

Having visited the AHC several times, I spent my limited time there just looking for clothing and textiles.  I was not disappointed.

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Fashion in Good Taste, at the Atlanta History Center

On a recent trip to Atlanta I made time for a visit to the Atlanta History Center.  I specifically wished to see an exhibition of items from their costume collection.  As a museum that focuses on the history of the North Georgia region, the clothes  in the collection are mainly from people who are connected with the area.  This new exhibition, Fashion in Good Taste has quite a few items that were made by designers and dressmakers from Atlanta.

The exhibition was held in Swan House, which is a mansion that is part of the museum complex.  If the view of the rear of the house, seen above, looks familiar, that is because it was used as the presidential mansion in the last Hunger Games film.  The house was built in 1928 for Edward and Emily Inman.  It remained in their family until 1965.  Today the house retains the original furnishings and interior.

The clothing was scattered around the house.  I was surprised to read that this early 1960s dress was from Chanel.  It was owned by Emily Bourne Grigsby, whose life has run the gamut from model at Rich’s Department Store to city planner to lawyer to artist.

One of the problems associated with displaying clothing in such large rooms is that they tend to get lost in the details.  And while the clothes were not behind glass, the large windows let in so much light that it was hard to see the clothing details in most of the rooms.

This stunning dress was worn by Sarah Frances Grant Slaton in 1928 when she was presented at the Court of St. James.  Slaton was First Lady of Georgia from 1911 through 1915.

This was, to me, the most interesting garment on display.  It was designed and worn by Mary Crovatt Hambidge in a style that reflects the art concepts of dynamic symmetry.  Hambidge took up weaving after a trip to Greece.  A decade later she moved to the North Georgia mountains where she started an art center and weaving community.

The halter and skirt on the left belonged to author and Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind.  The set is dated to 1938, two years after Mitchell’s book was published.

Madaline Dickerson Johnson was a member of the flying Ninety-Nines, an organization for women pilots.  This was her flying ensemble of jacket, jodhpurs, helmet and goggles.

This wrap dress was designed and made by Clyde Ingram, who had a dress and costume business in Atlanta. In spite of the name, Clyde was a woman.

Some garments simply defy categorization.  This jumpsuit was designed by Spelman College alumna Ann Moore. After college Moore worked as a designer for many years in Detroit.  When questioned about the jumpsuit, which dates to the 1950s, Moore said they she could not recall the motivation behind the piece.

These two ensembles are also by Ann Moore.  The pants set was part of six matching pieces which Moore called “Ubiquisix.”

The blue dress and coat were made by her for her return to Atlanta on the occasion of Spelman’s 75th anniversary.

This World War II era work overall was worn by Mary Frances Long.

It was part of a grouping of WWII uniforms and work wear.

The exhibition ended with the 1960s.  The pants suit is by French designer Andre Courreges, and was worn by Elizabeth Morgan.  The pink print mini dress belonged to Dean Dubose, as part of her college wardrobe.

Visibility issues aside, it was a nice cross-section of Atlanta-related garments.  I really think they need to have textile shows in the main museum where the amount of light can be regulated.



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Atlanta History Center

As part of the CSA Symposium, one day was spent at the Atlanta History Center.   One of the main features there is the Atlanta History Museum, which tells, of course, the story of the city of Atlanta and the surrounding area.

We were given an historical overview by a curator at the museum, and he said something that I’d never thought about, but immediately realized the truth of.  And that is that today Atlanta is strongly associated with the American Civil War purely because of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind, and the resulting blockbuster film.  Not that the war was not an important part of the history of Atlanta, and not that Atlanta was not an important aspect of the war. This is undeniable, but it was the book and movie that drew attention to the city and cemented the association.

So it’s not surprising that a large part of the museum is devoted to artifacts from the Civil War.  I just find it all so sad.  Among all the guns and flags and uniforms, you have poignant little things like this pin, which a soldier carved from his own leg bone.  It never was delivered to his sweetheart Lizzie, as he died before he could tell where to send it.

On a cheerier note, there is a nice section devoted to the game of golf, and to Atlanta favorite son, Bobby Jones.  The golf ensemble at the top of this post is a replica of a suit worn by Alexa Stirling in the 1920s.  Alexa was a friend of Bobby Jones, and was a golf  prodigy in her own right.  Below is a shot of her playing in a similar suit.

The Atlanta History Center has a very good collection of textiles, though during this visit there was not an exhibit dedicated to just clothing.  Instead, clothing and textiles are sprinkled throughout the exhibits and are used for illustration of the other themes explored.

In a large exhibit on folk arts, they have an ingenious way to display quilts where 6 or 8 quilts are mounted on slanted boards that are recessed into the wall.  You can push buttons, seen on the lower right of my photo, and the quilt you select to see will roll out for about 15 seconds, and then moves back into the darkness of the wall.

This is the Swan House, which is part of the history center complex.  At one time it actually housed the museum, but today is open to tours as a museum house.  The gardens are worth a walk though, and it is hard to believe that the city is just steps away!


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Fashion Journal – Atlanta History Center

Posted by Lin:

The subtitle ‘Freedom, Restraint and Power’ does look like it could be a recipe for vagueness… 

Did they have an ‘undersupports’ focus, or was it just everything? It seems to me that analyses based on ideas of relative ‘power’ and ‘subjection’ contained inherently in certain garment designs are always totally subjective and potentially contradictory…

Monday, June 20th 2005 @ 2:22 AM

Posted by Lizzie Bramlett:

Actually, I think there wasn’t a lot of effort put into trying to adhere to the subtitle, nor to the focus as a whole. This basicly was an exhibit showing what Atlanta women have worn over the past 150 years. The title comes from Atlanta’s close identification with Gone with the Wind, of course, but there was no real effort to tie in the ideas of substructure of clothing, subjection of women, liberation of women, or any other implied meaning from the subtitle. There was, at the center of the exhibit, a nice grouping of corset, girdles, bustles, and hoops. But there was no attempt to tie them to the garments displayed. It was all very disjointed and a bit haphazard.

Still, I enjoyed it, if for no other reason that the clothes were wonderful and I love almost any clothing exhibit. 

I’m not sure if this is the AHC’s first clothing show, but it seems that they need to narrow their focus on any more clothing exhibits. I remember the first clothing show I saw at the Mint in Charlotte. It was on shoes, and there was just a big room of shoes on display, with each one dated. Now they chose a narrow theme and tie it all together very nicely, giving both history buff and old clothing fan food for thought. Hopefully the AHC will do the same in exhibits in the future!

Saturday, July 2nd 2005 @ 1:53 PM

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