College of Design

Goldstein Museum of Design

December 9, 2014

The Coatdress: Dressing for Success

"You can do anything you want in life if you dress for it."
- Edith Head, How to Dress for Success (1967)

The coatdress has been a staple of professional women's wardrobes since the 1960s. In fact, in the 1970s, it was often worn on-screen by Minnesota's most famous working girl, Mary Tyler Moore. While modern version of the garment emerged around 1915, it became particularly popular during the latter half of the century.

Bill Blass. Tweed Coatdress. 1960-1965. Gift of Dr. Albert J. Greenberg. 2003.052.011

The coatdress shares many features with outerwear, including front closures with buttons or zippers. While they are similar in silhouette to the shirtdress, the coatdress is generally made out of the same fabrics as outerwear - like the wool and tweed examples here. During the 1960s and 70s, the dress was often cinched at the waist with a coordinating belt, seen in the coatdress above from Bill Blass. The garment's flat, pointed collar was also a popular feature in women's wear during this period.

However, the silhouette shifted during the 1980s. The coatdress became both boxier and less tailored to the body. The noted shift is apparent in the version below from Yves Saint Laurent. The angular, padded shoulders and large notched lapels of this double-breasted dress mirror trends in contemporary blazers.

Yves Saint Laurent. Wool Coatdress. 1985-1989. Gift of Kathleen E. Campbell. 2001.056.001.

-Laureen Gibson

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December 2, 2014

A Reading on Red Shoes

"And then she confessed all her sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes; but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep forest."

-Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes (1845)

Andersen's tale was adapted a century later into a ballet for the 1948 film The Red Shoes (shown above) and again in 2005 for a Korean horror film of the same name.

In Andersen's fairy tale, a pair of red shoes danced unrelentingly to punish a young girl for her vanity and material lust. Red shoes protected Dorothy and transported her home from Oz. There are a number of iconic red shoes in literature and film. However, their significances have differed, no doubt due to the varying meanings of the color red.

Red hearts and roses on Valentine's Day reflect its longstanding association with romantic love in Western culture. The color holds a significant place at ceremonies and celebrations around the world - from red carpets in Hollywood to red wedding ensembles for many brides in Asia. As the color of spilt blood, it also symbolizes courage and honorable sacrifice.

However, red has also been tied to the Roman god of war, Mars, signifying anger and violence. These hostile connotations persist with clichés like seeing red. Red also signifies sin and seduction. The Book of Revelation foretells of the scarlet clad Whore of Babylon, "the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth." Adulterous connotations continue with the scarlet "A" in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel. Its association with licentious behavior endures today in red light districts.

GMD's Collection includes a number of red shoes from across numerous decades, like these 1940s pumps (1977.023.036a-b) and 1970s platforms (1978.030.010a-b).

The multifarious nature of red contributes to its recurring presence on the page and the screen, as well as in fashion. Even the shoe itself elicits multiple, often conflicting, meanings. The high heel is frequently seen as everything from an oppressive shackle, to a fetish, to a symbol of power. It is undoubtedly these complexities that entice the writer, the designer and the wearer, alike.

Laureen Gibson

Posted by Goldstein Museum of Design at 11:54 AM | | Comments (0)

November 6, 2014

An Open-Front Cape and Close Ties

The crisp air and changing leaves bring a shift towards fall fashions. Retailers like Anthropologie are selling some lovely capes, but they are nothing like this beautiful silk-satin version by Christian Dior, gifted to GMD by notable donor and Minnesota-native fashion director, Kathleen Catlin.


The loosely structured shawl collar and three-quarter sleeves compliment the draped body of the garment. The cream satin is cutaway to reveal a matte peach silk and to create the scroll motif. The design is embroidered with metallic gold thread and adorned with beads, rhinestones, and pearls. Made in France, the cape was originally worn on the runway during the early 1950s and was a gift from one of the Goldstein's notable donors: Kathleen Catlin.

Catlin was born in Cottonwood, Minnesota - a small town west of the Twin Cities. She had a number of jobs in the fashion industry, including writing for a fashion column and working in publicity and copywriting, but she best known for her role as fashion director at Marshall Field's in Chicago from 1946-1961. She was very influential in importing European, especially French, fashions to Field's and for raising the status of the midwest store. Catlin traveled to Europe twenty-eight times while at Field's, forming ties with many in the fashion industry. She was particularly close to Dior, whom she brought to Field's during his first visit to the United States.

One of her former employee noted that "Dior thought the world of her" (Moin, 1995). Catlin also thought very highly of the designer and her personal wardrobe featured a great deal of his work. She donated her couture collection to the museum, which included several objects that reflect the relationship between the designer and the fashion director, including a scarf that reads "Christian Dior pour Miss K. Catlin."


Moin, D. (1995). A memorial service set for Kathleen Catlin. Women's Wear Daily, 80(1), 16.

By Laureen Gibson

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October 28, 2014

Oscar de la Renta: A Visual Celebration


Beloved American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta passed away on October 20, 2014 at the age of 82. GMD has a collection of 77 de la Renta garments; the 20 shown here testify to his playful, colorful, and diverse design aesthetic. To find out more about these and more Oscar de la Renta garments, visit our collection database and search for "Oscar de la Renta."

-By Natasha Thoreson, Lila Bath Collections Assistant

Posted by Goldstein Museum of Design at 5:00 PM | | Comments (1)

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!

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

Posted by Goldstein Museum of Design at 1:37 PM | | Comments (0)



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