Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Mannequin's Journey From Opera To Hip-Hop

Mannequins lead exciting, varied lives.

One day, you may be an opera goddess:

(With visions from across the museum reflecting gloriously off your case)

But then your fancy Freia costume has to go back to the Seattle Opera and you are left uncovered.

Back to being a blank slate!

But lo! Another exhibit approaches. You shall be transformed again! For this you'll need a head, a dark cover and some wider shoulders...

...some fuller arms and some width around the waist...

And you'll be cover-ready in your thrift shop glamour!

Surrounded on all sides by adoring, purple clad hands.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It's Hip-Hop!

This weekend MOHAI opened a new exhibition The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop which will be up until May of 2016.  When the loans for the show started to come in, I and the exhibits team were surprised by how much clothing there was. Cool graffiti jackets, coats worn in music videos, and outfits from designers and fashion companies that have roots here. So for the last couple of weeks I have been working on various mounts and display ideas to try to show off the stuff in the best way possible.

One of my personal favorites is the over-the-top fox fur coat worn by Raz Simone in his music video "Hometown."

I realize that many people are super grossed out by fur but you can't deny that this is a statement piece. It is just so bold and unapologetic and in the video all the little tails are flying around as he moves. It is fashion that demands attention.

Oddly we have two big fur pieces in the exhibit, the other being this one from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "Thrift Shop" video.

This thing is MASSIVE and so cool in a totally nutty way. Giant shoulders, tiger stripes, and this big hood that looks like a lion's mane when it is pulled up.

Now, this may surprise you, but I am not an authority on the hip-hop scene in Seattle. I know. Shocking. You could have been fooled since the Seattle Times coverage of the exhibit prominently featured an image of me (on the plus side, I am totally adding "hand model" to my résumé) but this is mostly an area outside my expertise. For this reason I've been a bit anxious about getting everything right while doing the dressing. I've been having flashbacks to the Season 5 episode of Project Runway where the designers were asked to design clothes for each other based on musical genres. It ended up that this person:

Had to design a hip-hop outfit for this person:

...and the results were about as tragically white and you'd expect:

Kenley, who had gotten on just about everyone's last nerve at this point, ran around the workroom with her silk floral blouse and high waisted mom jeans proclaiming "Look guys! IT'S HIP-HOP"

At which point one of the other contestants deadpanned to the camera:

"We're not going to tell her. We're just going to let her think that's hip-hop."

Basically that scene would replay in my head every time I would set something up or someone would ask for my opinion. I'M DOING MY BEST BUT I AM KENLEY IN THIS SITUATION AND NO ONE SHOULD LISTEN TO MY IDEAS ABOUT WHAT HIP-HOP LOOKS LIKE.

Fortunately MOHAI was not off on some island planning this exhibit. We know the limitations of our own abilities, and wisely hired outside help to get it right. The guest curators we worked with are actually part of the hip-hop scene in Seattle and know what they are talking about. We also had a consultant who selected objects for the fashion section and did the final styling of the mannequins. I was so flattered every time she asked for my opinion. I just wanted to be like back up and look who you are talking to.

I can show you a cool trick with bridal tulle to fill out the pant legs, but tips on how to properly cuff them around the Timberlands is ON YOU.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Mannequin Roundup

Sometimes I think I should rename this blog "Mannequins I Laughed At Today" or maybe start an Instagram account for weird museum clothing displays. I'm gathering quite a collection.

Last weekend I was in a museum in Vancouver, and snapped a pic of this "1920s" mannequin that is clearly an escapee from a mall in the 1980s.

I also saw some pretty good mannequin dressing this week. The EMP Museum in Seattle is hosting an exhibit about the costumes of Star Wars and there was clearly some custom work done for that show.

Standard mannequins don't usually have a "light saber fight" option or a "electrocuting someone with the force" pose. 

I particularly enjoyed this set of Emperor Palpatine mannequins that got increasingly hunched over as he got more evil.

The show was really heavy on costumes from the prequels. There was a lot that was underwhelming about those movies, but they certainly went for it with the costumes. I visited the exhibit with some other costume and textile people and we were going nuts for the fabrics and designs. 

Look at that Sleeve
That is a good sleeve.

Here are two senator costumes from the prequels. We could not figure out what was going on with this cream colored fabric. Is it woven? Some sort of fused or felted fabric? A combo? Also, how great is that furry muppet coat in the background? Too bad these were probably only on screen for a few minutes on some characters that no one cared about. 

After the Star Wars exhibit I wandered into the "We Are 12" Seahawks exhibit. Other than the Lombardi trophy and a Super Bowl ring, it was pretty light on artifacts. The only mannequin was an outfit worn by one of the Sea Gal cheerleaders. The dressing job was fine, but geez. THAT is ALL they WEAR!?