Western Reserve Historical Society's "Dior & More" exhibit opens door to Cleveland's haute-couture closet
Posted July 23, 2013 in Articles
Author: Emily Hamlin Smith
If the fingerprints on the glass are any indication, people are rather enjoying the latest exhibit at theWestern Reserve Historical Society.
Part fashion show and part history lesson, “Dior & More: For the Love of Fashion” is a tour through the haute couture collections of some of Cleveland’s finest-dressed women.
Think of it as an educational daydream.
Guest curator Susan Neill says the exhibit grew out of a desire to highlight the incredible couture fashions in the historical society’s collections. “Dior & More” opened in May and runs through April 2014.
“Couture is the creme de la creme; it’s the ultimate garment,” Neill says on the phone from Chicago, where she works as an independent costume and textile curator. “The breadth and depth of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s collection is stunning.”
Neill planned to assemble a show with a few dozen dresses — many worn by Elizabeth Parke Firestone (the wife of Harvey S. Firestone) and Mary Peters Bolton (wife of Kenyon C. Bolton) — but WRHS senior registrar Danielle Peck says Neill “went shopping and just couldn’t stop.”
She ultimately selected 40-plus pieces and organized them by time of day to ensure visitors see a variety of haute couture — not just ball gowns and little black dresses.
“I tried to pick some things that people would anticipate seeing — ball gowns with nipped waists, for example — but I also wanted to pick some things that are surprising,” she says, citing a two-piece ensemble from an unknown designer that features leather pieces sewn over wool and then embroidered.
“People do a double-take because they don’t expect someone from that time to be so sassy,” Neill says.