Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 In Review

There are many things I could write about 2014, but there are few that could be more simply put or more satisfying than this:

These are all the wire hangers that were removed from collections storage in 2014. This pile represents hundreds of garments which are now on better hangers or stored in boxes because of work done this year by me and my incredible team of volunteers.

So here's to all the accomplishments of 2014, and may 2015 be filled with many new and fulfilling endeavors.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Celebrations

I went a whole week without mentioning Miss Fisher on this blog, but that drought is about to end.

While watching the entire series for a second time, Olivia and I were reminded that Phryne's birthday is December 21st--"Summer Solstice" since the show takes place in Australia. And since Melbourne is 18 hours ahead of Seattle, Saturday was the perfect day to celebrate.  We drank champagne, ate multiple kinds of cheese, and settled in for four episodes of Miss Fisher and the movie Cold Comfort Farm.

Good times.

Sunday we celebrated Hanukkah by making/eating piles of latkes at Olivia's parents' house, and then singing a bunch of old timey Christmas carols at at party at my parents' house. (Like, Renaissance/Medieval old timey).


Speaking of Christmas, I found this strange ad for a menswear store in the Seattle Times from 1920:

Employing the time-honored marketing tool of obnoxious screaming men...

...and the puzzled women who love them.

Nothing like a desperate plea for underwear to put you in the Christmas spirit

So however you celebrate this season of holidays, may joy and blessings be with you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Helloooo Sailor!

It's that time of year!

Advent? Hanukkah? Solstice? Well yes, but also MANNEQUIN DRESSING TIME.

Ever since the new MOHAI opened two years ago I've been rotating the garments at the museum every six months. Prep work happens in December and June, and the switches usually happen in January and July.

As usual, I've got a few pieces that I'm really excited about. This round is particularly thrilling because I've finally gotten approval to switch out the weird face mannequins for plainer forms.


I had a long list of reasons why I wasn't a big fan of these forms, but the main issue was that they limited what kinds of dresses I could use. There are a couple really fab gowns that didn't fit the old forms that are now back in the pipeline for display.

Whatever. I'll still haunt your dreams, suckers.

Also as usual, there are a few outfits that I'm nervous about. Will they be easy to dress? Are there hidden condition issues that will only become obvious halfway through the process? One frequent source of consternation is the WWII uniform. With most of the other outfits I feel confident doing the dressing and writing labels. If I have questions about how something should be properly dressed, I know how to do that research and what sources to look at. I can also feel confident that my educated guess is probably pretty good, and it is unlikely that someone will be OUTRAGED by a choice I make. But military uniforms are a whole different deal. I don't know that much about them, but there are a lot of people who do. If I put the wrong pieces together, tie something the wrong way, or attach a medal in the wrong place, people will notice that mistake IMMEDIATELY. And they will make sure someone HEARS ABOUT IT.

Or perhaps just stop what they are doing and look at me with distain

For this round I picked a crisp Navy dress blue uniform, colloquially referred to as "crackerjacks (someone had to tell me that, I had no idea).

Well, Hellooooo Sailor!
(fun fact: Looking someone up and down and then saying "Hellooooo Sailor" 
has a 9/10 success rate of totally creeping them out)

Becoming a fashion historian is like gaining a sort of visual literacy. I sometimes have to remind myself that the general public doesn't automatically know the difference between clothing from 1880s and 1900, and that a slinky long dress with a natural waist is obviously more of a 1930s look than 1925.

Or that calling this a "Marie Antoinette Costume" is clearly some kind of mistake

But I don't have that visual literacy for uniforms, and it sort of freaks me out. Fortunately, I know a couple experts I can call on with questions about ties, tucked or untucked shirts, and what all the symbols and stripes mean. So I'm learning, but its not a language that I'm picking up easily. However, I am at the point where I can correctly identify that this: NOT standard military issue. 

Unless there is some special ops stripper division that I don't know about.

Sigh. Still so much to learn. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blogger angst

Last weekend I started writing a post but then got all hesitant and ended up never actually publishing it. Basically, with the news so dominated by Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it has felt weird to post anything on social media that isn't about racism in America. But then it also felt weird to post my two cents, because I'm like 0% the authority on what it is like to be a person of color in this country. I sort of feel like...

Basically, replace "advice" with "discourse on resolving institutional racism" and "sarcastic comment" with "fashion-related factoid" or "comedic gif."

I think I'm better off listening and educating myself, but at the same time, I don't want people to imagine I don't think or care about anything beyond what I write about here. If I wail about how emotionally devastated I was by the end of Season 2 of Miss Fisher, you all know that that grief is not actually equal to the grief I feel about real human suffering, right?

(It is more important to me to live in a world where Black Lives Matter than get a Phryne/Jack kiss, but frankly neither seemed like MUCH TO ASK FOR)

So while I support many causes for justice and equality, I still have a lot to learn, and I certainly shouldn't have delusions that I'm some kind of leading voice. On this blog, I will continue to only get on my soap box for causes I can speak about authoritatively.

Here are some things I felt qualified to speak about authoritatively this week:

1) How amazing these shoes are:

c. 1912 purchased at Seattle store Turrell's

2) How exciting it is to get Christmas music passed out during choir practice:


3) How embarrassingly bad my french pronunciation is:

A french person, probably

(We are also singing "Un flambeau, Jeannette Isabelle" or as I say it "Ann Flambow Janet Eesabellah")