Interesting Stuff

Labor Day often symbolizes the end of summer, but we aren’t quite ready for it to end just yet.  Take a look at these bathing suits and see how much styles have changed.

Black Cotton Bathing Suit, 1915

This black cotton bathing suit has built-in bloomers, a sailor collar, and a detachable skirt.  There are four buttons down the front with black and cream ribbon edging.

Green Shirred Bathing Suit, Late 1930s

This green bathing suit is made of 100% nylon lastex.  Lastex is a material with an elastic core wrapped with thread, in this case, nylon thread.  The shirred bodice has stays throughout the top, giving the suit a rigid structure.  The halter suit also includes a zipper closure up the back.

Yellow Bathing Suit with Clothes-Pin Fabric, 1953

This cotton yellow bathing suit is most noticeable for its bright color and graphic fabric featuring a repeating clothes-pin pattern. It has a sweetheart neckline, adjustable straps, a smocked back, and ruffles through the neckline and hips.

Designer Spotlight

Oleg Cassini

This magenta dress has a V-neckline with an overlapping “wrap” closure. The silk dress has printed bands of turquoise, gold and deep purple.  The long kimono-style sleeves have button cuffs with a printed boarder around the wrists. The same border is repeated at the hemline. It was designed by Oleg Cassini for his 1983 line.

detail of the print on the sleeve

This summer, the Museum of Texas Tech University is sponsoring “Celebrating Our Heroes,” a collaborative exhibition with other Lubbock museums designed to honor local veterans.  Part of the exhibit at the Museum of Texas Tech University, called On The Home Front, highlights the contributions of fashion designers in WWII. Oleg Cassini provides another example of a designer’s role in the war effort.

Born in Paris to a Count and Countess, Oleg Cassini immigrated to the United States and started designing costumes in Hollywood.  In 1941, the first picture he worked on was I Wanted Wings, designing for then newcomer, Veronica Lake.

Actress,Gene Tierney Wearing a Costume Designed by Oleg Cassini, 1941

Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor soon interrupted his career as a costume designer.  Although he had only lived in America for a few years, he took citizenship in order to fight in WWII with the United States.  He served five years in the US Calvary as a First Lieutenant.

Following the end of his military career, Cassini moved to New York in order to start his own clothing line.  He quickly gained widespread notoriety by his close association with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.   Appointed “Secretary of Style” in 1961, Cassini became the exclusive couturier to the White House.  He remarked that his desire was to make Jackie Kennedy the most famous First Lady of all time.

Worn by Jackie Kennedy in 1962, it is now on display at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

Today, his clothing and bridal lines are still worn by countless celebrities. His designs focus on clean lines, luxurious fabrics, and classic garment shapes.

Suit, Evening

courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Object of the Day

Black Beaded Chiffon Dress, 1926


This sleeveless chiffon dress has a low scoop neckline featuring an intricate design of rhinestones and cut-glass bugle beads.  The same trim outlines the elongated waistline and fans upward on the bodice in an art deco butterfly design.

Detail of the butterfly beading design

We’ve been watching the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby in anticipation of the movie’s release, which was just pushed back to Summer 2013.  In the movie, costume designer, Catherine Martin, takes a few liberties to modernize the flamboyant style of the 1920s.  How do you think this dress from our collection compares to the black sequined gown featured in the trailer?

Click on the 1920s tag below to see other objects from this decade on our blog

Object of the Day

Tan, Coral & Orange Print Chiffon Beaded Dress, 1920s

This dress typifies 1920s style from the height of the decade. Although this dress may not be considered short by today’s standards, hemlines rose sharply in the 1920s arriving between mid-calf to just below the knee.  Shorter dresses showed off a woman’s legs.

During these transformative years, women opted for a new silhouette in stark contrast to previous styles.  This dress shows the columnar silhouette marked by a low waistline at the hips.  The weight of the dress hangs loosely from the shoulders. In this dress, the hips are defined by the vertical bronze beadwork and pink triangles.  Beading became especially popular in the second half of the 1920s.

Detail of the beadwork and textile print

Fabrics in the 1920s became lighter weight with more women choosing silks and chiffons.  The pattern designs became more vibrant and elaborate. This brightly colored geometric print draws influence from the art deco movement.

Object of the Day

Blue Velvet and Chiffon Gown over a Copper Slip, 1935

This gown has a floral coupe de velvet design on a blue chiffon background.   It has a sweetheart neckline, shirred waist and belt, gathered sleeves and a broach at the neckline.  The dress is worn over a copper-colored slip giving the dress a unique coloring.  Both the dress and slip are bias cut, designed to hug the body and create draping.

This dress embodies key stylistic elements of the 1930s, which represented a marked departure from the 1920s clothing trends.  The silhouette of the 1930s was softer and more sophisticated than the harsh angles of the 1920s.  Rather than continue the dropped-waist, most dresses fitted closer to the body with a natural waist.  Hemlines dropped creating a long, sleek body line.  Using the technique of cutting delicate fabrics (such as silk and chiffon) on the bias, designers created fluidity that allowed graceful movement of the garment.

1930s Vionnet dress courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Regarded as “Queen of the bias cut,” Madeleine Vionnet is credited with inventing and popularizing the technique of cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric.  Cross cutting the fabric allows it to cling to and move with the curves of the body. The style developed by Vionnet dominated 1930s fashion.  Many Hollywood actresses wore her dresses including Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. Demonstrated through her bias cut gowns, Vionnet believed that,“when a woman smiles, then her dress should smile too.”

Madeleine Vionnet courtesy of http://www.Vionnet.com

Object of the Day

Blue Crepe Dinner Dress, 1930s

Detail of the chevron-studded sleeve

This dress belonged to Lubbock native, Dorothy Rylander.  She attended Texas Technical College (later to become Texas Tech University).  Beginning college in 1927, she received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degrees in history. Her association with TTC was interrupted for several years when she worked in the office of Texas Congressman George Mahon in Washington, DC from 1946-1953.

Ms. Rylander wore this blue crepe dinner dress during her time at the college. The bias cut of the fabric along with the cowl neckline represent common design elements of the 1930s. Alternating gold and silver square studded chevrons embellish the bell-cut sleeves.

Throughout her long and fruitful career, she contributed to several entities on campus, including the College of Engineering, the West Texas Museum and the West Texas Museum Association, and the Southwest Collection. Retiring in 1971, she remained actively involved in community organizations in Lubbock receiving both the “Freda McVay Award for Community Service” in 1981 and the TTU’s “College of Arts and Science’s Distinguished Alumnus Award” in 1988.

Designer Spotlight

 LILY PULITZER, Cotton-Blend Shift, 1973

At age 21, Lily Pulitzer and her husband left their busy life in New York City to settle in Palm Beach where they owned several citrus groves.  There, Lily opened a juice stand.  To disguise the colorful juice stains that inevitably appeared on her clothes, Lily designed her own dresses out of brightly patterned fabrics.

Credit: Lilypulitzer.com

Three years later, an old schoolmate of hers, then First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, wore one of her dresses and suddenly the brand was born (pictured below at far right).

“Jackie wore one of my dresses – it was made from kitchen curtain material – and people went crazy. They took off like zingo. Everybody loved them, and I went into the dress business.” – Essentially Lilly, A Guide to Colorful Entertaining

Credit: lilypulitzer.com

Since then, the Lily Pulitzer brand has stayed true to her original vision. Starting with a “spill-proof” color palate, the textile print team develops its own prints and patterns.  Drawing inspiration from the beach, museums, paintings, and gardens, the team gives each design a uniquely creative name.

Ricci Shift in the “Hotty Pink Scorpion Bowl” print

Although the Lily Pulitzer is still known for the classic shift dresses, the brand expanded to include tops, scarves, purses and other vibrant accessories.  She also developed a children’s line, and a sorority line with separate prints for each.

"Kappa Alpha Theta" Print by Lily Pulitzer

Staff Favorite

Brick and Beige Striped Paisley with Brown Velvet Trim Dress, 1875-1876

This dress caught my interest immediately because of its multiple design elements.  Made for a woman, who could be only five feet tall at the most, this dress encompasses many different embellishments.  The piece was made between 1875-1876 yet, it is in excellent condition.  The green, beige, and orange striped paisley print itself is eye-catching.  Then added on top are brown velvet bows, a row of buttons, a trimmed ruffle on each side, a bustle, a collar, button-trimmed pockets, and cuffs.  For this look, more is more.  It took a bold, confident woman to wear this dress.

Detail of Bodice