[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!
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.