Tag Archives: Georgia Museum of Art

Exhibition Journal: Pucci in America

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Last October I traveled to Athens, Georgia to the Georgia Museum of Art.  They were having a special exhibition on Emilio Pucci and the business relationships he had with firms in the United States.  Pucci had spent some time as a student at the University of Georgia, also located in Athens, and so an exhibition about his US relationships seemed appropriate.

While the museum did not allow photos for this show, they did provide a nice place to sit and sketch.  I’ve talked about sketching in museums before, and unfortunately,  it is not always possible to sit with a pencil and paper and draw.  Some museums don’t have benches, and others are so crowded that trying to sketch is impossible.

If I’m visiting a new-to-me museum, I will usually take my sketchbook and pencils, but I never know until I get inside if the place is drawer friendly.  I also take a small notebook, because sketchy notes are sometimes all that is possible.  From my notes and from photos (hopefully ones I was able to take) I then do my journal entry at home.  In this case I was able to do the main sketching onsite and then I finished it when I returned home.

There is an excellent article in the latest Dress journal from the Costume Society of America about fashion displays in museums and the problems associated with displaying on a static form clothing that was meant to be seen on a moving human body.  Author Ingrid Mida brings up some very interesting points about how different it is to see a garment on a mannequin than it is to see it on a human body.

In the not too distant past it was considered to be okay for museum garments to be worn by models, but today it is against museum and preservation standards.  Museums attempt to make the clothes more dynamic by showing video of the clothing in action, and even, as in the case of the recent John Paul Gautier exhibition, by using animated mannequins.  I can see why this would add to the understanding of a garment by people who are viewing it in a museum.

At this point I’ve been to dozens of fashion exhibitions, and to be honest, I just expect to see static forms displaying the clothing.  But then, I’m all about taking a close look at the garment and noting the details.  We all take something different from an exhibition, whether it be clothing or painting or furniture.  At this point I’m just glad that fashion is being seen as worthy of exhibition.  I can remember a time when clothing exhibitions were very rare indeed.

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Emilio Pucci in America, Georgia Museum of Art

Emilio Pucci skiing at Reed College in the uniform he designed for the ski team there, 1937. Special Collections, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College.

Yesterday I took a museum day.  The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens had just opened a new fashion exhibition and I was anxious to see it.  The topic was Emilio Pucci, who needs no introduction from me.  What many might be surprised to know is that Pucci actually attended the University of Georgia in Athens after transferring from the University of Milan.  He then went on to Reed College in Oregon.

As the title tells us, the exhibition was not a comprehensive study of the career of Emilio Pucci, nor was it a history of the company.  It was about how the Italian Pucci had relationships with American institutions and companies.  The exhibition is quite small, and there are a few gaps in what was displayed, but overall it gives an excellent view of Pucci’s American relationships.  Photos were not allowed (although there was no sign stating such, and it took getting my hand slapped to find it out) and the photos supplied for press do not show any of the clothes as they are displayed, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to use your imagination somewhat.

Probably the best known collaboration between Pucci and an American company was that with the lingerie company, Formfit Rogers.  Throughout the 1960s and into the 70s Pucci designed undergarments and sleeping attire for Formfit.  On exhibit was a panty girdle, and four matching lingerie pieces in blue.

Braniff hostess modeling in a pink Pucci uniform holding an umbrella standing in the front part of a jet engine. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Between 1965 and 1974, Pucci designed uniforms for the stewardesses of Braniff Airlines.  The ensembles included everything from head to toe: hats, scarves,dresses,tunics,pants, leggings, shoes, and boots.  Archival photos show that the stewardesses were allowed to mix and match the pieces, though the staff was provided with clothing that corresponded to various activities and which involved two in-air clothing changes.

Braniff hostess wearing a pink Pucci uniform and a bubble helmet standing in front of a Concorde airplane at the Paris Airshow, 1967. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

The exhibition had this tunic, and it also had the plastic bubble hood.  Archival photos show that the women often wore the tights with a solid dress.

Group photo of early Emilio Pucci hostesses uniforms for Braniff. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas

Group photo of early Emilio Pucci hostesses uniforms for Braniff. Braniff Airways Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas

The bubble hood was only used for a short period because of its tendency to malfunction.

My favorite outfit from the exhibition was a circa 1955 two-piece swimsuit and matching cape that Pucci designed for Canadian-American swimsuit designer Rose Marie Reid.  The print was a tiny Venice theme, and while I could not find a photo of it online, there is a similar Reid piece for sale.  That set just went to the very top of my wishlist.

I was really hoping that there would be some of the very rare pieces that Pucci did for White Stag in 1948.  They did have the copy of the Harper’s Bazaar in which the pieces were shown, but no actual garments.  And there was no mention of the mid 1950s collaboration between Pucci and the McCall’s Pattern Company, nor was there any mention of the patterns he did for Vogue in the 1960s and 70s.

Even though this exhibition was quite small, I’m glad I took the time to go see it.  The clothing was very well presented, and the lighting was good enough so that the details could be easily examined.  It is well worth a drive if you are in Georgia or the western Carolinas.

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Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor

Ann Bonfoey Taylor wearing a Balenciaga evening coat (1962–63) at a personal photo shoot in 1971. Photo by Toni Frissell/Courtesy of the Taylor family.

Several weeks ago I mentioned that there was to be an exhibition of clothes belonging to Ann Bonfoey Taylor at the Georgia Museum of Art.  I’d planned on making the trip, and yesterday I made it down to Athens, GA to check it out.  The collection belongs to the Phoenix  Art Museum, which also organized the exhibition which first was shown there in 2011.

Having read the museum’s description of the exhibition, I knew that it included items from Charles James, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Madame Grès and Hermès.  That sounds pretty nice, but it’s been my experience that many times exhibitors tend to highlight the most famous names in press releases.  I was completely caught off guard when I walked into a room that contained not one, but  fourteen Charles James ensembles.

Charles James (American, b. England, 1906–1978) Ball gown, 1949 Silk taffeta and duchess satin Photo by Ken Howie

There were James suits and coats and evening gowns and the stunning ball gown shown above.  It’s is actually a dress and a jacket, and in the exhibition the two pieces are displayed separately with an explanation of how the two fit together.  She also had special foundation garments from Charles James, and the La Sirine gown in black and in eggplant.

Astounding as that was, I entered the next room and was met by Ann Bonfoey Taylor’s sportswear.  In this case, it was all pretty much from Hermès.  Yes, this woman went hunting and skiing wearing Hermès.

Cristóbal Balenciaga (Spanish 1895–1972) Evening dress and coat, 1962–63 Abraham silk Photo by Ken Howie

In the 1960s, Taylor turned to Balenciaga and Givenchy.  The gown and coat above was used as the introduction to the exhibition, and it is a real beauty.  But it was only one of thirteen Balenciaga ensembles in the show, and there were another twelve by Givenchy.  Mrs. Taylor was a serious couture shopper!

Hubert de Givenchy (French, b. 1927) Cocktail coat and dress, 1960s Silk Photo by Ken Howie

Most of the daywear was in dark colors – greys and black and dark blue. But her evening wardrobe was colorful and bright.  With the exception of wool plaids from  Hermès, there was a complete lack of patterned fabrics.  This woman knew what she liked and what looked good on her and she stuck with these things throughout her life.

Ann Bonfoey was born in 1910 to the family that manufactured Putnam Dyes.  She married early, at eighteen, and moved to Vermont where she took up the latest sports craze, snow skiing.  She discovered that she was quite good at it, and earned a spot on the 1940 Olympic team.  Unfortunately, WWII happened and the Olympics were never held.  After the US became involved in the war, Ann signed up as a flight instructor and she spent the war years training US Army air cadets.  By this time she was divorced from her first husband and needed to work to support her two children.  When the war ended, she turned to skiing and fashion in order to make a living.

She came up with the idea to make ski clothing, which her friend Diana Vreeland was able to get featured in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.  She ran a shop in Stowe, Vermont, and the New York store Lord and Taylor carried her line, Ann Cooke.  The line was short-lived, as she remarried in 1946 and soon moved with her new husband, Moose Taylor, first to Texas, and then to Colorado.

Ann Bonfoey Taylor skiing. Photo by Toni Frissell/Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photos Division, Toni Frissell Collection.

This new husband had the means for Ann to have her clothing custom made by the best in the business.  She continued to pursue skiing, and she had incredible costumes made to her specifications.  At one point she went for a military look, and collected vintage and antique military hats and bags to go with her bright red jackets, which were decorated with brass military buttons.  In 1965 photographer Toni Frissell shot photos of Taylor for Life magazine and the pictures ran in an article titled “An Inventive Skier’s Worldly Wardrobe.”  Over the next decade, she became known as one of the most stylish women in the world.  Interesting, because all this fashion attention came after she had reached the age of 55.

Note cards, available at the Georgia Museum of Art

The last grouping of clothes in the exhibition were by Madame Grès and were from the 1960s and 70s.  To me one of the big surprises of the show were the Grès day dresses (seen in left note card).  For someone so associated with draping and evening gowns, she sure knew how to put together a lovely dress for day.

The two coats on the right are by Charles James, early 1950s.

  As I entered the exhibition area I was given the card above which contains a listing of terms that non-fashion people might not be familiar with.  I thought it was a nice touch.  Click it if you want to read the list.

I was disappointed to see that photos were not allowed, but I soon forgot to care, and I realized that not being able to use the camera forced me to focus on and remember the details of the garments.  Most museums that do not allow photos are very gracious about letting writers have access to press photos, and the Georgia Museum of Art even has them available for download right on the website.

I loved how the clothing was arranged.  The mannequins were placed so that the visitors can get really close to look at the fabrics and the details.  Many are situated so that both the front and the back can be seen.  There were actual photos of Mrs. Taylor wearing the garments that were on display.  In short, it was a very effective, entertaining show.

There were quite a few visitors, but the space was large, and the exhibition was spread over six galleries.  I loved watching the other visitors.  One group was a pre-teen girl, her mother and grandmother.  They were having the best time, the grandmother explaining the fashions of the 1960s to the little girl.

If you are going to be anywhere near Athens, Georgia before September 16th, you must see this incredible show.  The video below was shot at the Phoenix Museum of Art in 2011, but the show is pretty much the same.  Note all the Hermès sportswear behind the news reporter and the curator, Dennita Sewell.

All photographs are courtesy of the Georgia Museum of Art.  Do not post to other sites, please, including pinterest and tumblr.

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