Taking a closer look

March 12, 2015 – July 31, 2016
Higbee Gallery | Sara Hume, PhD, Curator

The art of creating beautiful custom clothing has always entailed beautiful workmanship that is hidden when the pieces are worn. This exhibition showcases these secret inner-workings that are usually out of sight. Pockets, quilted linings, boning and labels all come to light when the garments are flipped inside out.

The pieces selected for this exhibition, which span the eighteenth to the twentieth century and include both men’s and women’s wear, are excellent examples of their respective eras. Unlike many period garments, which have been reworked or have had their linings and waistbands altered or removed, these pieces have maintained a remarkable degree of integrity. In fact, in some cases, the insides are as beautifully finished as the outsides.

Fashion history usually focuses on changing silhouettes with the rise and fall of hemlines or the tightening and loosening of waistlines. Underlying these external shifts are structural changes that appear only when the garments are laid out and examined closely. Creating three-dimensional garments from bolts of cloth demands solving certain basic problems: how to finish the edges, how to fasten the garments, how to shape the material around the body’s curves. Dressmakers and tailors have addressed these problems with a number of ingenious methods. Some of these techniques reappear in every era while others are specific to a period. Technological innovations have had a direct effect on construction techniques. The invention of snaps and zippers obviously affected designs, as did wider looms and sewing machines. This exhibition tracks these changes with a careful selection of representative pieces, which are mounted in ways to allow visitors to take a close look at the interiors.

Choose one of the images below to take a closer look:

18th Century

18th Century

19th Century

19th Century

20th Century

20th Century