College of Design

Goldstein Museum of Design

October 21, 2014

More is More: Bob Mackie Couture at GMD

Bob Mackie is considered one the most outrageous of designers, creating some of the most spectacularly outré costumes of the last 55 years. Remember the feathered headdress and skimpy, sparkling halter top Cher wore to the 1986 Oscars? Or the hilarious curtain rod dress Carol Burnett wore in her parody of Gone with the Wind? Both were created by Mackie. It is fitting, then, that one of the most sensational objects in GMD's collection bears his signature.

mackie_1.jpgBob Mackie [born 1940], Jacket, 1988, silk, feathers. Gift of Emily Willard 2005.001.015


Constructed from yellow silk faille and trimmed with silver braid, this bolero jacket makes a humorous play on the shoulder angel and devil convention. Both horses are embroidered with chenille yarn; their manes created with long, fluttering black and white feathers. Whimsical details include rhinestone buckles on each bridle and three-dimensional stand up embroidered ears.

Mackie has famously declared that "A woman who wears my clothes is not afraid to be noticed." Emily Willard, the jacket's generous donor, made a career of being noticed. As an elegant - and tiny! - ballerina living in New York, Willard amassed a large collection of flamboyant 1980s fashions, including this gorgeous evening gown embellished with bugle beads, rhinestones, and a huge iridescent burgundy bow.

mackie2.jpgBob Mackie evening dress, bugle beads, rhinestones. Gift of Emily Willard 2005.001.016a-b


Willard wore her jacket with a simple black wool crepe sheath with spaghetti straps, similar to the one featured in this Vogue fashion spread from September 1988. The text explains that this one "striking accessory" was enough to "make" any look. Note, however, the Vogue model's oversize black and white star-shaped earrings and permed and teased hair - the 80s were an era when more was definitely more!

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"Something Different Is Happening This Fall." Vogue 178, no. 9 (September 1, 1988), 633.



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October 15, 2014

Award Winning Student Apparel Design: Siberia + Sustainability


After weeks of preparation, the day arrived. Rushing around, trying to get every detail taken care of, an entire apparel design class readied their designs, their models, and themselves for the WAM Collective's 2014 Elements: Design Competition and Runway Show.

The prompt for this fashion show was to design a piece that both embodied the life and culture of Siberia and addressed the idea of sustainability. Elizabeth Bischoff's design, a full-length coat with upcycled beaver fur, two different upholstery fabrics, and a lining fabric won honorable mention award. Bischoff described the coat materials as connecting strongly to the Taiga forest in Siberia, while the design and lining color suggest the Mongolian culture indigenous to Siberia.

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The apparel design class took on this project as a lesson in designing for a theme and also handling the preparation and stress of a runway show. All of Bischoff's classmates who submitted a design won a spot in the show. They participated in a rehearsal where their personal music selections were played through while the models walked. Some chose to model their own work and some recruited models. Bischoff recruited her good friend, Casey Casella. To make sure the night of the show would go smoothly, they ran through the hair and makeup schedule during the rehearsal.

The show (check it out the video below) went off without a hitch, Bischoff took home a gift certificate to Treadle Yard Goods and she showcased her coat at GMD's Legendary Lake Design benefit (where she also showed a suit coat and a pair of pants) this past September. We hope to see more of her designs popping up on the runway soon!




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October 8, 2014

Accessorizing for the Occasion: A (very) Brief Look at the Clutch

accessorizing.jpgThe University of Minnesota hosted the Costume Society of America for their Midwest-regional meeting this September. The weekend included a mini-exhibit from the Goldstein collection that centered on the meeting's theme of Dressing for the Occasion, and highlighted women's formal wear throughout the 20th century, showing how no outfit is complete without the right accessories, shoes and (of course) purses!

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The purses featured included a number of styles - some, like this early-20th century beaded handbag that are rarely seen today. Others still frequently pop-up under women's arms at various special occasions.

Consider the red carpet. Women aren't toting oversized satchels. No, they are carrying the often constant companion to the evening dress: the clutch. The small, generally strapless, underarm bag emerged during the 1920s. It replaced more ornate purses and signified a rejection of the opulence of the Edwardian period. A frequent feature of the flapper's ensemble, the clutch also symbolized the modern woman's
increasingly public roles in society.

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Small and sleek in design, purses like the art deco-styled clutch suited the woman on-the-go.

The simple, angular shape typified the modernist style. However, as Caroline Cox points out in The Handbag: An illustrated History the clutch reflected a "faux functionalist aesthetic." The clean, streamlined design is contrasted by the bag's impracticality. Without a handle or strap, the clutch must constantly be held or tucked under one's arm, hampering the active lifestyle it was originally meant to accompany.

Despite its functional shortcomings, the clutch remains a fixture in women's wardrobes. While most 21st century women carry much larger, handled bags from day to day, the clutch is still favored for special occasions. Perhaps the petite purse reflects contemporary women's desires to momentarily set aside their busy lives and celebrate.



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October 2, 2014

Introducing New Goldstein Museum of Design Staff

The Goldstein Museum of Design welcomes two new graduate student staff members, Laureen Gibson and Abbey Kleinert. As collections assistant, Laureen works directly with the collection, assists with exhibitions, and contributes to the GMD blog. Abbey designs the GMD communications strategy, working on items like the print magazine and the GMD exhibitions website.


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Laureen is a first-year PhD student in the Apparel Studies track of the Design program, with a concentration in Dress, History and Culture. She recently finished her MA in Human Development at Saint Mary's University, which concluded with a paper on the dress of the women in the Bond films (Yes, she watched all 23 Bond films at least once). Her MA program focused on how women's dress signifies cultural definitions of femininity and built on her undergraduate studies of costuming and literary theory at Concordia University in Saint Paul. Just a bit more about Laureen - she loves sewing, her favorite place in the Twin Cities is the polar bear exhibit at Como Zoo, and she livse in Saint Paul with her husband, Cristopher, and their corgi, Elvis. She is very excited to get to know everyone at the Goldstein and looks forward to working with all of you.


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Abbey is in her first year as a graphic design MFA graduate student. Before landing at McNeal Hall, she formed a co-operative printmaking studio & artist collective with her art school buddies from her undergrad years (in printmaking and journalism), worked at City Pages, worked as an independent contractor in art and design, and taught printmaking and surface design at community arts non-profits like ArtiCulture and Minnetonka Center for the Arts.

One of her favorite graphic design projects was creating an identity and logo for local startup, Foster Art Company. Some of her students' work can be found on her Pinterest, "Creative Selves" and she's working on creating an online portfolio at: www.dropr.com/akleinert.



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September 29, 2014

Marking the Beginning of the Fashion Calendar - A look at Charles James; American Fabric Sculptor, Craftsman, and Design Perfectionist

As anyone who saw The Devil Wears Prada knows, September marks the start of the fashion calendar year. The September issue of Vogue (and Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour, etc.) is traditionally the grandest of the year, chock full of the latest in haute couture. In honor of this month of couture, GMD takes a look at some garments by accomplished self-taught American designer Charles James. From expertly-sculpted coat sleeves to a cocktail dress that nearly stands up on its own, James looked upon his garments as works of art.

Here's a glance at two Charles James garments in the GMD collection.

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The wonderfully detailed little black coat featured above has an elaborate stand-up collar, elegantly folded to create a peek-a-boo diamond cut-out. The coat's swing shape maximizes the fabric's thick body and sheen, making dramatic light catching waves. The sleeves, cut from a single piece of fabric, are expertly sculpted with minimal darting. Initially designed for pioneering Harper Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, the coat was originally made from a brightly colored wool plaid blanket. This formal version, in sleek black satin, provided far less warmth than looks. A bright yellow lining provides an unexpected burst of color.

James broke the rules of the traditional couturier - he often ignored the schedule of seasons and worked out of the US - and was therefore not eligible to be named an official haute couturier by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris.

But he didn't need a French title to develop his innovative couture garment construction techniques and enjoy popularity as a fashion designer. James died in 1978 but has recently been the subject of a much loved exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as a result, his bespoke designs are in the midst of a popularity surge.

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On the surface, this dress seems rather straightforward - a typical 1950s cocktail dress meant to show off a woman's hourglass figure. In fact, this dress is so elaborately constructed, it nearly stands up on its own! James' inclination for complex construction is reflected in the darting and design lines; curved darts are difficult to execute, especially with a fabric as unforgiving as taffeta. And on the bodice construction, the same pattern piece transitions from back to sleeve without a seam line; an expensive and unheard of convention in manufactured garments.



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