American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

Some of you may remember that I spent a month in New York in June last year (it feels weird to say that!) and while I did many amazing things, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was definitely a highlight. The MET and its steps may be more commonly known amongst the younger generations as the literal social ladder for the glamorous teens of the Upper East Side. That’s Gossip Girl for anyone who hadn’t caught on yet. And in real life, there’s no school opposite it – only amazing apartments I would sell a kidney for.

But I digress – I went to the MET not only wanting to soak up the amazing architecture, ancient Egyptian artifacts, mind blowing paintings that take up an entire wall and other important historical trinkets which may or may not start to look exactly like the last one you saw… I was interested in that, but I had an extra skip in my step as I walked towards the exhibition entitled ‘American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity‘. (Click the link to read more about the exhibition and watch a video of the collection – it’s almost like you were there!)

I absolutely adore old clothes, especially from the 1920’s – 1960’s. Their design, style and quality make my heart lurch and lust, and I have never seen such amazing pieces as I did that day. The exhibition showcased pieces from the 1890’s – 1940’s and was set out so that you could walk ‘through the decades’ and see mannequins posed in scenarios wearing different outfits of the era. I wouldn’t have liked to be a woman at the beach in the 1910, but a Flapper in the 20’s or Screen Siren of the 40’s – yes please! Videos, plaques and signage helped to explain what was going on politically and socially during the decade, and how this influenced the fashions at the time. It was fascinating to see the form (and lifestyle) of a woman change through the decades, from tight-waited hourglasses to long and straight columns, and hear the stories that helped mold these silhouettes.

While some of the items were from the late 1800’s, they barely looked their age and the 20’s dresses shone in mint condition. Some pieces came from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, while some were from personal collections. My, could you imagine the wardrobes of those ladies, literal archives into a fashionable past. It blew my mind to think that these were real clothes, not just costumes sewn from images of the past. Real clothes, which looked like they once would have been bursting with life. Real clothes that once would have shimmied and swung, full of history from a former life.

If only sequins could talk.

Please excuse the quality of my photos – they were hastily taken in an ‘I’m in a museum and not sure if I’m allowed to take pics’ kind of way…


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