Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

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.


  1. Hi Ms Berg! I live (part-time) in Seattle and am working on a fun fashion history project for my blog and I would love to get your advice on a couple of things. I promise not to take up too much of your time and to give you and MOHAI full credit for whatever you share with me. If you're game, can you email me at Thank you! - Sherry Dryja

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