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

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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

Black Cotton with White Polka Dots Fandango Dancer’s Costume

This full-skirted, ruffled dress from the Ethnology Collections of the Museum of TTU was used as a costume for Fandango dancing.  Fandango is a form of Flamenco Spanish dance, and is the main folk dance of Portugal.  It is traditionally accompanied with guitars, castanets and hand-clapping.  Fandango is performed by two dancers (boy and girl, boy and boy, or girl and girl), in which the dancers alternate turns and attempt to out-do the other with more eye-catching feet transitions.  This costume is from Barcelona, Spain.  A red scarf attaches at the back, and ties around the waist in front.  The ankle length skirt is made of 5 layers of ruffles edged in green braid.  Underneath a full, red, organdy petticoat is made of four layers of ruffles, trimmed with narrow double ruffles.

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

Emerald Green Chiffon Gown, 1966

Worn by Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson wore this dress to a state dinner for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India on her state visit, on March 28, 1966.  President Johnson held a state dinner for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi the year she assumed the office her father had held for 17 years.

The gown is made from emerald green chiffon with the top beaded with green sequins and tiny beads. The gown has a simple round neckline, sleeveless and zips up the back. The dress was donated with a matching chiffon shawl.

Associated Press photo, White House Historical Association, March 28, 1966

Mollie Parnis, who designed many dresses worn by First Ladies from Mamie Eisenhower to Betty Ford, designed this dress. Lady Bird Johnson and Mollie Parnis became close friends during her time as First Lady, Parnis designed Johnson several gowns providing her with her signature look.

Associated Press photo, White House Historical Association, March 28, 1966

Object of the Day

Two Piece, Silk Brocade and Taffeta Reception Gown, 1875-1880

This silk brocade and taffeta gown was made in the fashion of the early 1870s. It was made in Michigan and brought to Texas by the daughter of a lumber merchant. Some of the features of the dress are the asymmetrical draping on the overskirt, the trim of poufs around the bottom front of the skirt, shirring and knife pleating on the bottom back of the skirt and the crochet-covered iridescent pearls buttons.

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

Object of the Day

Rust Brown Velvet Dinner Gown, 1935

This dramatic velvet dinner gown from 1935 is representative of the way women desired to appear during the 1930s. The dress has a bias-cut skirt with a train and molds itself to the body to form a statuesque silhouette. The bodice is darted below the bust line and small covered buttons run down the back. The sleeves are made with red fox fur banding on the edges.

This dress was designed by Lettie Lee who was a Hollywood costume designer. She was a gown supervisor and also designed costumes for several 1930s noir and early “Talkie” films. She most notably dressed Fay Wray in Ann Carver’s Profession, a film that directly followed her to star in King Kong.

Gowns like this made ordinary women feel glamorous like Hollywood movie stars, and they are not as hard to come by as you might think. We have several in our collection that were worn by fashionable women in West Texas.

Have you ever found a glamorous gown like this in your mother’s, grandmother’s or great grandmother’s closet?  Tell us about it!

Object of the Day

Coral Silk Ball Gown, 1890

In honor of the wedding dress that is going to be exhibited today, we are going to feature this ball gown. Hattie Napice purchased this gown at the same time as her 1890 wedding dress. The two gowns where made by the same seamstress in Dallas, Texas. The bodice has a low neckline and small sleeves made of lace. There is a small piece of silk that drapes on the front that resembles a cummerbund. The skirt has a front portion of cream silk with a gold and pink leaf pattern and long train.

Exhibit News

Today is the first Friday of the month and that means it’s time for the First Friday Art Trail. Today we will be replacing the center dress with this 1890 wedding gown.

Hattie Napice wore this two-piece ice-blue silk faille dress with ostrich feather and bead trim when she wed Thomas Shive in December 1890 at Vernon, Texas.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite wedding dress here or at the museum for the dress that well be featured in the center May 2012.