College of Design

Goldstein Museum of Design

June 2012 Archives

[BACKGROUND] Hello all! My name is Issa Mello and this spring I've been selected as the University's Lila Bath Intern. This means I get to spend a week in San Antonio, Texas at the University of the Incarnate Word studying and analyzing all of the culture, dress, and the extensive Lila Bath costume collection. Throughout my trip I'll be posting a couple blogs and plenty of pictures to share my experience with you!

LilaBath_blog2.1.jpg LilaBath_blog2.2.jpgLilaBath_blog2.3.jpg

Day one highlights include visiting the Witte museum and its exhibition of Fiesta gowns. Fiesta is a spring festival to honor the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. Activities carry on over about a week span and include a royal court of 24 duchesses and their escorts. During the celebrations one is crowned queen and one is selected as a princess. Their dresses are the most elaborate part; these artworks can take several months to create and often weigh more than 40 pounds! The train, which is the focal point, can hang either from the shoulders or from the waist, depending on the design. The queen would always have it hang from her shoulders because she has sleeves and a collar to help designate her as queen. Fiesta usually has a theme to coordinate the week's events; this can be anything from cities to museums to history.

Day two consisted of researching the Lila Bath collection at the University of the Incarnate Word. We were honored to be joined by Donna Muslin, a good friend of the designer Lila Bath. Ms. Muslin shared with us the story, personality, and style of Lila Bath. It was amazing to hear about the person behind the designs and see Lila reflected in her work. Her garments show attention to details: hand painting and hand beading, embroidery patterns, pocket placement, combinations of unconventional fabrics (monta, typically used for tablecloths, with lace), tiny pintucks, even lining up buttons to match the fabric. All of the garments were fabulous to see and inspect "gloved-hands on"! Later in the evening I was able to select a few garments as inspiration for two garments that I will complete as a reflection of my experience in San Antonio.

The third day of the trip included learning about the "quinceanera" celebration. I spoke with several students from UIW about their own celebrations. Quinceanera is a Latin American celebration for a girl's 15th birthday; it marks the transformation of a girl to a woman. The day starts off with a traditional mass, with blessings for the birthday girl, her gifts, and her guests. Then the party moves to a reception, where the birthday girl receives her "last doll", is transformed from her youthful accessories to new ones, and is paraded around for all to see. The dance floor is opened up by the birthday girl and her honored court (7 girls, 7 boys) for a traditional group dance, a modern dance, a combination, or both! A father-daughter dance, brother-sister dance, or any other relations can share a dance with "Miss Quince" before the dance floor is open to all. Overall the celebration takes all day and makes for an event that will never be forgotten. Of course, throughout the night, the dress and the girl are the stars.

top left: From 1961 Festival when the theme was "Court of the Americas". This was the duchess of Haiti from that festival.
top center: This garment was given to Donna Muslin from Lila Bath, along with the necklace. The dress was crocheted, but also has hand-beading on the larger sections.
top right: A quinceanera dress from a student at UIW.


In a collection of apparel, I often wonder about the person who wore or used the object and where and how it was acquired. Occasionally I strike it rich and find specific information on the donor. Occasionally I happen upon a story that is so charming that it seems it should be shared. Such is the case with a distinctive hat by Madame Suzy and its hidden provenance. The hat, a donation of Melva and Thomas McCart in 1980, was purchased in Paris during World War II by Mr. McCart and shipped to his wife in Minnesota, where she was on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Home Economics department. Found in the file was a delightful letter written by Mr. McCart relaying the story of how he came to acquire the hat and ship it home.

After an internet search for the obituaries of Thomas and Melva I was able to find their daughter's e-mail address (isn't the internet amazing?). I wrote to her asking permission to share the story of the hat, the picture of her mother wearing the hat, and the letter her father had included with the donation. The following is a scan of the letter and images of Melva McCart looking very stylish in her Parisian hat. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed finding it. I have now included this letter and the images of Mrs. McCart modeling the hat in the on-line catalog record, for all to discover. Please search the database for more images of the hat and Melva McCart. You can search by using either Suzy or McCart as the keyword.

Eunice Haugen
GMD Registrar




Issa Mellow.jpgBlue Dress Designed by Issa.jpgHello all! My name is Issa Mello and this spring I've been selected as the University's Lila Bath Intern. This means I get to spend a week in San Antonio, Texas at the University of the Incarnate Word studying and analyzing all of the culture, dress, and the extensive Lila Bath costume collection. Throughout my trip I'll be posting a couple blogs and plenty of pictures to share my experience with you!

Before I get too far into the trip, here's a little background information about me. I'll be entering the fall semester as an Apparel Design major in the College of Design, University of Minnesota. Born and raised in Plymouth, MN, a northwest suburb of the Twin Cities. I found my passion for apparel design at a rather late stage, after completing my freshman year at the U. Ever since then, however, my courses, classmates, faculty, and of course, family and friends have inspired me to delve further into my interests. Along this journey I've discovered an intrigue for children's wear as well as surface and textile design. Both of which I hope to explore further during the production of my senior line in the fall.

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Throughout my time in San Antonio I am looking to learn a few surface design techniques that are used in Southern Texas and Mexican dress. These techniques can be meticulous, but are very characteristic and common in traditional Mexican dress. I also am curious about the quinceaƱera tradition, the celebration for a girl's 15th birthday. This event is a very important part in a girl's life and is treated much like a wedding, with a lavish dress, dinner, and party. Living in Minnesota for my entire life, I don't have much knowledge about this event and I would love to learn to how dress is involved and its associated meanings for the birthday girl.

top left: Myself at "Twelve: XII", the apparel design senior fashion show 2012
top right: A dress I designed last summer, including ombre dying and detailed style lines. Three words to describe my design aesthetic would be thoughtful, inspired, and practical.
bottom right:The Lila Bath Gallery at The University of the Word Incarnate in San Antonio, Texas. (photo via



The exhibition showcases about 200 baskets from around the world, a fraction of the baskets that collector Nancy Schermer gathered during her world travels. The exhibition offers exuberant color and toothy texture. Part of the appeal is the diversity, ranging from Crayola-colorful telephone wire baskets created by the Zulu people of South Africa, to subtle brown and ivory split ash and sweet grass baskets fashioned by artists in American's Appalachia.

The baskets range widely in size. Miniature baskets from the Darien rainforest in Panama are so tiny and tightly-woven that a hummingbird could sip from them. An Ethiopian ritual basket is so large that a small child could hide under it. Many baskets have intensely beautiful geographic patterns, but the pictorial baskets may steal the show. Macaws, parrots, and monkeys pose on baskets made by the Embera and Wounaan peoples of the Darien Rainforest of Panama. Butterflies and ponies move in a circle around the face of flat Hopi baskets. Butterflies, beetles, and snakes crowd each other uneasily on a Zulu basket. This dazzling exhibition is up through September 9, 2012.



We are pleased that our marketing partner for this exhibition is The Grand Hand Gallery, a store in St. Paul specializing in hand-made objects that span the bridge between craft and art. The Grand Hand's owner, Ann Ruhr Pifer, just opened a collaborative exhibition, American Baskets: from Traditional to Contemporary, from Coast to Coast. It features the work of six basket artists: Tari Kerss, Martha Monson Lowe, Sharon Meyer Postance, Ann Hall Richards, Linda Sorem, and Tressa Sularz (through July 8 at The Grand Hand, 618 Grand Avenue, St. Paul; See our joint ad in the June/July issue of American Craft, magazine of the American Craft Council.

Kathleen Campbell, GMD

Top left: A subtly-colored Appalachian basket
Bottom left: Pictorial basket by the Zulu people of South Africa
Bottom right: Pictorial basket by the Embera-Wounaan people of the Darien Rainforest in Panama


IMG_1337.jpgWhat's it like to work in a museum? Each year, two graduate students get an opportunity to work in GMD as a communications assistant and a collections assistant. This year, the two grad students were Caitlin Cohn (MA apparel studies, minor museum studies, PhD Student apparel studies) and Jenny Parker (MFA graphic design, minor museum studies). Both Jenny and Caitlin aspire to work in museums.

Caitlin: I have worked at GMD as communications assistant (2010-2011) and collections assistant (2011-2012). Working at GMD has given me a wide range of experiences that will be invaluable as I pursue a career working in museums. As communications assistant, I worked on developing GMD's blog, which Jenny has refined. Given my focus on dress, history and culture, I especially enjoyed working in collections. I was fortunate enough to co-curate an exhibition, Polarities: Black and White in Design with Jean McElvain, PhD, GMD's assistant curator. I also worked on writing descriptions of objects and pulling pieces to show in History of Costume. I am grateful to GMD for giving me this opportunity to begin on the path toward becoming a museum professional.

IMG_1327.jpgJenny: This year, as the communications assistant, I wanted to focus on making GMD more visible, and communicating all of the diverse programs and activities we do behind the scenes. I was proud to come to work at GMD each day, feeling like I was contributing to our mission, and realizing new goals for our future. As an emerging museum professional, it was extremely beneficial for me to work on multiple tasks in a small museum like GMD, allowing me to understand the way GMD functions, and get an idea of the inner-workings of all museums. Through this experience I have come to realize how much I love working in museums. GMD has not only been a great place for me to grow and learn, but has become a home, one that I will greatly miss! Here I have learned that a museum is not just defined by the objects in the collection or the exhibitions in the galleries, but also by the staff and volunteers that make it all possible; and I am honored to have been a part of this family for a short time.

Jenny and Caitlin have not only learned from their experiences, but have helped GMD realize new goals for next year's graduate assistants. We are excited to welcome this year's collections assistant Natasha Thoreson (a former GMD volunteer), and communications assistant Sharlene Balik. We look forward to seeing how their unique strengths contribute to GMD in the coming year!


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