Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Monday, October 20, 2014

Portlandia: The Full Story

As explained earlier by a gif about pickling, I was in Portland last weekend. I was there to attend the Costume Society of America Western Region symposium. It was me and 37 other West Coast ladies who have made a career (or at least a serious hobby) out of being really into clothes.

The symposium theme was all about street style and subcultural influences on contemporary fashion and so I put together a presentation about GLBTQ clothing as represented in the MOHAI collection.  I was actually kind of cheating because while "queer style" was one of the suggested topics, I used the opportunity to talk about John Doyle Bishop and John Eaton who were decidedly not "subcultural" or "outsider" when it came to their fashion sense. (But, you know, that is sort of the point--there is no single GLBTQ story or style). I also I talked about new things we acquired when we did a "collecting initiative" during the run of the Revealing Queer exhibition, major gaps in the collection (most of what we have is from white, relatively affluent gay men-- so LOTS of people still unrepresented), and some basic cautions about stereotyping and tokenizing people. It was well received, although it felt weird when a couple people emphatically told me that I was SO BRAVE to tackle the subject. Um...I guess? Very kind of them to say, but in the grand scheme of brave acts committed in the name of inclusion, this probably isn't one for the history books.

Anyway, the true act of bravery that weekend was booking a room in the most hipstery of hipster hotels in downtown Portland. The thing about cilantro conditioner was not a joke. My room came with "original art" and a "curated mini-bar." Breakfast literally included an assortment of pickled things, along with artisanal cheeses, cured meets, and local honey.

My actual room was pretty minimal on the "original art" front. Or was the whole thing art? Is my whole life a performance?!?!? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?!?!

On Sunday I went on an excursion to the Maryhill Museum which is weird/amazing place on the Washington side of the Columbia river, about two hours outside of Portland. Why weird/amazing? Well, to start with it is in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by some serious scenery. Here are two views I took from the balcony of the museum cafe:



Inside is an odd but interesting mix of art and history objects: including a collection of Rodins, oil paintings, Native American artifacts from across the US, a collection of chess sets, and a whole bunch of stuff that belonged to Marie, Queen of Romania. But for us fashion geeks, going to Maryhill is all about making a pilgrimage to the Théâtre de la Mode

Paying my respects to this sacred couture space

(If you don't know the Théâtre de la Mode story, google it or click the link above. I can't do full justice to it here)

I distinctly remember visiting Maryhill on a family trip when I was a kid. I was engrossed by the fashion dolls and bought some postcards which I poured over for the next few weeks. Clearly, it was an early hint as to where my life interests were headed. 

This time around I felt inspired to take selfies of me and the dolls.

Attempting to get a picture with the frothy aqua Lucian Lelong dress
(likely designed by Christian Dior)


I can only conclude, once again, that the Pacific Northwest is a remarkable, wonderful place. 

1 comment:

  1. AHA! Once I went to the Theatre de la Mode link, I completely understood your glee.