Fashion + Function
What can the clothes we wear tell us about the place we live?
Find out on May 4, when the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) presents Seattle Style: Fashion/Function – a major new exhibit featuring garments and accessories from the museum’s collection and revealing captivating stories about the city’s sartorial spirit.
Curated by MOHAI’s Collections Specialist for Costumes and Textiles Clara Berg, the exhibit highlights how elegance and practicality co-existed and converged in Seattle wardrobes, providing new insights into local clothing and culture. The collection of rarely seen men’s and women’s fashions from the mid-1800s to today explores the distinctive sensibility and authenticity of Seattle fashion, ranging from couture to grunge aesthetics to street fashion. Alone, few of these ingredients are unique to Seattle. But, woven together, a distinctly local story emerges.
Highlights of the exhibition include:
Two-piece Ball Gown House of Schiaparelli, Paris, maker Ruth Schoenfeld Blethen Clayburgh, owner. ca. 1951: This ball gown is from the couture house of Elsa Schiaparelli, likely during Hubert de Givenchy’s design tenure in the early 1950s. It boldly contrasts black beading with Schiaparelli’s signature color, “shocking pink.” The wearer, Ruth Schoenfeld Blethen Clayburgh, was a prominent arts patron who organized and attended some of Seattle’s most lavish fundraising events. In her obituary, she was described as “equal parts generous and stylish.”
Striped Toque, John Eaton, maker. ca. 1963: This whimsical hat was made by John Eaton, who opened a shop in Seattle in 1950. Seattle has a particularly strong tradition of millinery, or hat making, thanks to designers like Eaton who taught the craft to generations of students. Eaton’s creations range from the fantastical to the practical and were often made to match a client’s outfit.
Salish Pattern Wool Blanket, Louie Gong, maker Eighth Generation, maker and retailer 2018: In 2015, Seattle-based Eighth Generation became the first Native-owned company to produce wool blankets. While the blankets can be used as décor, they are designed to be worn as honor gifts—wrapped around the shoulders of someone recognized by their community for an achievement or contribution. The pattern in this blanket uses the same design elements in an irregular sequence rather than a simple repeat and pays homage to Coast Salish weaving traditions that stretch back hundreds of years.
Additionally, through October 14, 2019, MOHAI will feature a variety of lectures lead by Clara Berg, a panel discussion on ethical fashion, a retail popup featuring local designers, the Gossip & Glamour style summit, a student designer fashion show, and a clothing repair fair.
Photography by the Museum of History & Industry, Seattle