Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, September 21, 2013

SYTTD Wichita Edition

Last weekend I was in Kansas helping my cousin Laura find a wedding dress. Laura and I are close in age, both only children, and visited each other a lot growing up--so she is the nearest thing I have to a sister. When I called to congratulate her on the engagement I blurted out, "When are you going shopping for your wedding dress and can I come?" Knowing that I can be kind of an exhausting and intense person, I was pleasantly surprised when she replied, "That would be so helpful! Would you?"

Awesome. All this Say Yes to the Dress watching was finally going to pay off!

We went to four bridal salons, three of which were great, one of which was a total bust. The latter seemed promising because their website advertised dresses in our price range and what seemed like a pretty big selection. But actually the selection was small, most dresses were surprisingly expensive, and an overall feeling of grimness seemed to pervade the shop. In retrospect, my first clue should have been the fact that one of the photos on the website was literally a picture of a teenager texting while wearing a hideously garish prom gown.

This photo sums up our enthusiasm for the store

At the last shop I got really excited because they had a PNINA TORNAI KNOCK-OFF GOWN COMPLETE WITH SLUTTY MESH BODICE.

My cousin, who for some strange reason wanted to keep her midsection covered while getting married in a church in front of her family and friends, did not try it on. I texted Olivia the photo and she asked, "Well why didn't you try it on?"

And at that moment I realized that not doing so would be among my life's greatest regrets.

My other greatest regret from the trip was that David's Bridal didn't try to hard sell us one of their "gown preservation kits," (which we saw them attempting to push on other people). My take down of that B.S. would have been EPIC. Here is how I imagined it:

1) No actual conservator would "preserve" a dress by pumping it with chemicals and then cramming it into a little box.

2) I have actually had the experience of opening a wedding dress that had been "preserved" in a box in the 1950s and it was horribly wrinkled, and reeked of chemicals so strongly that we couldn't be in the same room with it. Also, newsflash, the company that had guaranteed it for 50 years was long out of business. So good luck with that.

3) Skip the bug treatment. No bug wants your 100% polyester wedding dress.

4) In your advertisement you mention "museum quality" muslin. Hmm interesting. There is another name for that. It is called REGULAR MUSLIN.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Greetings from the Fatherland

Last week I actually started writing two different posts but didn't manage to finish either and so wound up letting a week lapse. One was about how successful Fashion First Thursday was at MOHAI, and the other was a manifesto about why I feel okay spending a lot of money on clothes.

The former will probably be published in some form eventually, but here is everything you need to know about First Thursday:

1) It was great

2) You can read about the winning Hourglass Footwear design here.

3) No one really listened to my audio tour, but that's OK because I never listen to audio tours when I go to museums. But if you are really interested you can access it yourself from your cell phone! And listen to me talk about things that aren't in front of you!

(click to expand)

4) Nordstrom brought a bunch of stuff from their archive which gave me total shoe envy because our collection of their stuff doesn't even come close.


Always say yes to Rococo-influenced 1930s shoes (far right)

5) The only minor disaster occurred when I made the mistake of trying on something at the Prairie Underground table and now I'm in love and it is imperative that I buy this $275 raincoat.

Huh, I wonder why I started writing a post defending my choices to buy expensive clothes??

At the moment I am in Kansas for a very exciting fashion-related adventure that you will hear about soon. During the plane ride it occurred to me that this year I will have visited both my parent's hometowns. In July I was in the Motherland (Montana) for a cousin reunion, and on this trip I'll be spending some time in Wichita Kansas where my dad grew up. I've already seen three women with Mennonite head coverings!!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Roundup of Things

First up, if you live in the Seattle area you should come down to MOHAI on Thursday and enjoy all the free fashion-related stuff we've got going on. Read about it here. And vote for your favorite shoe here. (Those two thoughts relate, I promise)

Last Saturday my friends Curt and Jong had a housewarming party for their new place, and asked people to dress up in something with a hot or cold theme. After much closet-related soul searching, Olivia and I came up with the very abstract idea of "The cooling down of tensions at the end of the Cold War"--which basically meant that Olivia dressed up like someone young in the 1980s and I dressed vaguely like an old Russian lady. In other words: we killed it.

We couldn't decide which of us was Glasnost and which was Perestroika 

On Monday we had an all staff retreat (which technically wasn't a retreat because we just met in the conference rooms at the museum) which kicked off with the facilitators asking us to write our name on a big piece of paper and then decorate the paper with non-work things that we were passionate about. I had a hard time with this assignment because 1) Many of my passions are work related, 2) those that aren't work related sound lame when summarized on paper, and 3) I don't appreciate mandatory craft time at 8:30 in the morning.

(A note about #2: Just about everyone in Seattle is "outdoorsy." They go camping, hiking, canoeing, biking, skiing, and probably hybrids like canoe camping and ski biking. So most people decorated their vision boards with mountains and water and sporting equipment. And while I am totally comfortable with my current life choices to spend most of my downtime watching old DVDs of Law and Order: Criminal Intent with my roommate, it is difficult to draw that on a poster and not look like the saddest person.)

Nobody Understands
I ended up writing three things on my paper, accompanied by half-assed drawings: singing, spending time with friends (illustrated with a TV and a beer), and the slightly work-related but totally honest "Shopping for clothes/ wearing clothes/ thinking about clothes."

In my mind, the prize for the best poster went to my friend Amanda who didn't totally hear the whole assignment and just wrote her name and drew an arrow pointing to it. I saw it and I thought, Yes, Awesome. You know what I'm passionate about? Me. Because me doesn't force me to make cheesy posters.