College of Design

Goldstein Museum of Design


Fiber into Fantasy14.jpgZandra Rhodes' dresses on display in the GMD exhibition Fiber Into Fantasy (1999), curated by Marilyn DeLong.

by Natasha Thoreson

In 1991, Zandra Rhodes was commissioned to create the Chicago Marshall Field's flagship store holiday extravaganza display. The year's theme was Cinderella, so the London-based designer crafted 12 larger-than-life sparkling ball gowns that were then mounted on custom-made gold mannequins to tell the famous rags-to-riches story. After the holidays, the dresses eventually made their way - via Marshall Field's, Dayton's, and Target - to the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Fiber into Fastasy7.jpgRhodes' dresses on display in the GMD exhibition Fiber Into Fantasy (1999), curated by Marilyn DeLong.

Twenty-three years later, the unique dresses were introduced to me and four of my classmates in Dr. Marilyn DeLong's Material Culture and Design course. For the next year, Dr. DeLong, Mary Alice Casto, Seoha Min, Harini Ramaswamy, Meghan McKinney, and I worked together to research the dresses and the department store holiday display phenomenon. Our work will be published in an upcoming issue of Fashion, Style & Popular Culture. Here are some of the group's reflections on the process of working on this project at the Goldstein.

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Dr. DeLong: I first encountered the Zandra Rhodes dresses when they were donated to the GMD. They were fantasy dresses with historic references - not the usual donation. They offered insight into the theater involved in department store displays with their exuberant materials, frills, and glitter.

Mary Alice: Upon first seeing the dresses, they seemed quite costume-like though hard to determine where such a costume might be worn, they were so over the top.... the detail work for the painted designs on the fabric I always thought was spectacular.

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Dr. DeLong: The opportunity to research the dresses came when I taught the Material Culture and Design class. They offered an interesting comparison with the Zandra Rhodes artifacts already in the GMD historic costume collection and, as it turned out, the research completed by the students was worthy of publication.

Seoha: We had intense discussions regarding the objects and everything about the objects. It was really helpful because it is important to have different people's perspectives to analyze the hidden meaning of one object. Moreover, it was really an opportunity to learn how to collaborate with classmates.

Harini: This gave me the opportunity to analyze the different cultural influences, surprise elements and "the Zandra oomph" that manifested in her clothes. Zandra's dresses simply reflected her identity - a fun loving, expressive, one-of-a-kind designer with a vivid imagination. Her dresses also reflect that she is bold and adventuresome. She often breaks the rules and is unafraid to embrace the unconventional.

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Meghan: Finding photographs of the original Zandra Rhodes display proved to be next to impossible! It predates the widespread use of the Internet by enough years to make it difficult to find photographs online, but it didn't take place so long ago that people are beginning to scan photos as nostalgic items from their pasts.

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Harini: Putting myself in the shoes of a child, I would be really enchanted and fascinated to witness the original display. As a child, I remember being drawn to fairy tales and this would definitely be something memorable.

Mary Alice: I think the original display must have been the stuff of fairytales and fantasy as they were intended, everything to make a little girl smile.

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Thanks to ongoing financial support from people like you, we are able to continue to digitize the GMD's extensive collection of over 30,000 items of apparel, textiles, furniture, decorative arts, and more. The digitization team (fondly known in-house as "Team Digi") makes it possible for you to see the collection online, no matter where you are. This March we have the pleasure of welcoming a brand new photographer, Ellen Skoro, to the team.

Until it closed last summer, Ellen was a photography instructor and administrator at the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul. With a Masters degree from Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a Bachelors degree from Columbus College of Art and Design, Ellen has extensive experience as a freelance photographer. Her personal work, which can be seen at, focuses on portraiture. She was recently awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) Artist Initiative grant to finish a six-year portrait project. Her other work has revolved around capturing still lifes of objects, experience that will translate directly to photographing the GMD collection.

Currently, Team Digi is photographing a variety of textiles from the collection. In order to create the illusion that the pieces are lying flat or magically floating in a void, the team must create an elaborate setup consisting of black panels and fabric-covered bars propped against the wall at just the right angle. Following the same protocol that has been in place for the objects that have been photographed in the past, the team meticulously calibrates the camera and shoots with powerful strobes in soft boxes. Undaunted by the complexity of this challenge, Ellen instead is exhilarated. "This museum is so cool! I'm really excited to be here!" she tells us. We couldn't agree more.

To date, 6,000 objects (or 20% of the collection) have been photographed and can be viewed online. You can now contribute directly to the continuation of this project. Visit to help make our collection accessible anywhere in the world.

Visit to search the collection.

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by Paula DeGrand

I've been volunteering in the Goldstein Museum of Design Research Center most Tuesday mornings for a year and a half. I recently finished working with a couple thousand donor files. The files I saw each week contain the paperwork – deeds of gift, acknowledgment letters, and inventories of donations – involved in changing the ownership of property. What an interesting way to learn about a collection!

Over the months, I found not only deeds of gift and acknowledgment letters, but yellowed newspaper clippings of wedding announcements, faded portraits of wearers in their finery, fabric swatches, receipts for a suit tailored in Shanghai a century ago and for lingerie from Deco-era Paris. As I worked my way through these files, I couldn't resist seeing whether certain donations had been photographed and were included in GMD's online collection database. When they had, I could count on properly prepared and lighted garments and accessories that had been photographed in beautiful detail. I construct clothes from 1930s, '40s, and '50s patterns and am always excited to find and share documentation of aesthetic choices and technical solutions from those periods. GMD's photographs are simply great ways to see these details.

The photographs are so inspiring and instructive that when I started my blog, Getting Things Sewn, a year ago, I created a feature, "Backstage at the Goldstein," to showcase garments I'd discovered during this project. Using these photographs, I have brought to my readers' attention curved welt pockets, bound buttonholes, and a whimsical yet sophisticated use of polka dots. Invited to look closely, even my readers who don't sew have responded with surprise, enjoyment, and curiosity.

It puts a smile on my face to remember walking into the Research Center and seeing, close-up, clothing and accessories not only by the best-known designers but also by skilled dressmakers and home sewers whose names are unknown to us today. Thank you, Goldstein staff, for preserving these precious items.

Visit to read more about Paula's explorations of the GMD collection and to see the projects it has inspired.

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ElizaPantsTwophotos.jpg Rod Hasse Photography

by Elizabeth Bischoff

I am a sophomore at the U of M, Twin Cities, pursuing an apparel design major as well as a retail merchandising minor. I also have the great fortune to be a part of gallery staff at the Goldstein Museum of Design.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Align, the Apparel Design Fashion Show on the 15th of February. The show is meant specifically for the seniors to showcase their work, but sophomores and juniors in the program get to showcase a piece of their own work as well.

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I showcased a pair of pants I designed, patterned and sewed to fit my body. The pants are a palazzo style with a high waist; both the waistband and pocket openings feature a scallop detail. The inspiration came mostly from the need of a pant for the everyday girl to wear to an interview or out and about.

Before I could walk down the runway, however, there was a lot to be done. I first had to get through hair and make up, model for a photo shoot and rehearse my walk down the runway. Rehearsing and performing the walk was, perhaps, the most difficult part of the day. I was told to hold my head high, keep my shoulders back and walk with one foot in front of the other - all the while maintaining a neutral expression. From this, I learned the valuable lesson of poise, which helped me display my work to the best advantage. In addition to learning this great lesson, I got to go through this first-time experience with my classmates and show off my hard work.

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Visit for more information about Align.

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by Jean McElvain, Assistant Curator at the Goldstein Museum of Design

The 2014 senior apparel lines presented at the Align Fashion Show on the 15th of February were serious and smart as they strode through the courtyard of Rapson Hall. With an array of whites, blacks, grays, and beiges, even the most devout modernist likely craved a bit of color by evening's end. But the diversity of lines brought a riot of smart styles that explored gender-bending, tradition, and futurism. As someone who is constantly looking back at the history of fashion through my work with the Goldstein Museum of Design's collection, I saw hints of past styles while viewing the work of these emerging designers. The likenesses between them are arguable, but I was inspired to explore precedents for a few of my favorites.

The calm romanticism of Karen Fiegen's wedding gown had traces of a mid-1950s Adele Simpson evening dress. The white dress is, of course, much more demure than its strident black counterpoint.

alignandcollection1.jpgleft: Gown by Karen Fiegen. Photo by Rod Hasse.
right: 1984.047.009 Adele Simpson, 1950-1955, Goldstein Museum of Design Collection, Gift of Mrs. Elmer L. Andersen.

Jessa Manthe's toothy gray coat immediately reminded me of 1970s coat by Donald Brooks. While the style lines are dissimilar, Manthe's emphasis on materiality and quirk echoed Brooks' surprising diamond-pattern of raccoon fur.

alignandcollection2.jpgleft: Coat by Jessa Manthe. Photo by Rod Hasse.
right: 1988.022.001 Donald Brooks, 1970, Goldstein Museum of Design Collection, Gift of Annette Neff.

The brooding nature of Paul Erling's dress evoked a 1980s silhouette with de-emphasis on the female form. Erling's dress "out-drama's" its Zandra Rhodes comparison, but both have a sneak-peek element that keeps us visually re-visiting the garment over and over.

alignandcollection3.jpg left: Dress by Paul Erling. Photo by Rod Hasse.
right: 1992.035.008-3 Zandra Rhodes, 1980-1989, Goldstein Museum of Design Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Miles (Shirley) Fiterman.

The crisp lines and blocked use of black and white of this ensemble by Thanh Nguyen elicits a 1980s vibe, complete with a tight turned collar and office-chic attitude.

alignandcollection4.jpgleft: By Thanh Nguyen Photo by Rod Hasse.
right: 1992.035.019 Chanel, 1975-85, Goldstein Museum of Design Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Miles (Shirley) Fiterman.

Kayna Hobbs' jacket, with its asymmetry and highly constructed angles, immediately reminded me of Thierry Mugler's work from the 1980s. Both handle complexity, rigidity, and femininity with aplomb.

alignandcollection5.jpgleft: Jacket by Kayna Hobbs. Photo by Rod Hasse.
right: 2005.001.020-1Thierry Mugler, 1990-1995, Goldstein Museum of Design Collection, Gift of Emily Willard.

Align: The Exhibition will be on display in the GMD's HGA Gallery through May 4, 2014.
Visit for more information.

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Quilt, 1904-1920, wool, 79 x 54 in. Goldstein Museum of Design, Gift of Patricia and Clyde Burmeister 2006.057.001

Joining the GMD's collection in 2006, this quilt comes complete with an interesting provenance. Gifted by Clyde and Patricia Burmeister, the quilt can be traced back to Clarkfield, Minnesota and Mrs. Burmeister's grandparents, Konrad and Sophia Solberg. Konrad Knute Solberg (1874-1954) was the 27th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota; however, it is his Clarkfield haberdashery shop that most affects the study of this quilt.

The Burmeisters explained that the quilt was created from suiting samples taken from Solberg's store, established in 1903. In an era when clothes were still being made by hand either at home or by local tailors, such stores carried a wide variety of commercially produced bolts of fabric, including suiting material for men, women, and children. Suiting fabric was produced in a variety of structures, from basketweave to herringbone to elaborate jacquards, examples of each seen in this quilt

Each of the quilt's squares measures approximately 8 x 4 ½ inches. Some feature small discolored square stains in the corners, perhaps the result of a chemical response to glue from a label or binding in a sample book. It was not uncommon for women to use samples or textile remnants in their quilts. They saved scraps from garment construction, recycled worn clothes or furnishing fabrics, and sent for scraps from textile mills.

Sometimes referred to as "comforts," utility quilts like this featured simple designs without borders, large blocks of sturdy fabrics, and colorful yarn ties. Large square blocks of pre-cut fabric samples would have been quick to piece together, especially by machine. The maker of this quilt skipped the decorative quilting step, opting to quickly tie the blanket together with yellow yarn knots. Quilts like this were most often made by those with the fewest resources, whether those resources were fabric, time, or a warm, cozy winter fire. Yet, the owner of this quilt was a well-to-do businessman and farmer, soon to be elected Lieutenant Governor. While it is certainly possible the Solberg family fell on hard times, it is more likely that this quilt was "utilitarian" only in spirit.

- Natasha Thoreson, Collection Assistant

Search for more fascinating quilts in our digital collection at

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Coverlet, 1840-1880, wool and cotton, 85 x 42 in. Goldstein Museum of Design, Gift of Mrs. Frank Haynes 1980.105.006

Coverlets emerged in the early 19th century alongside new developments in spinning technology. While the cotton gin was perfected in 1793, it was not until local mills adopted the "spinning-jenny" in the early 19th century that cotton yarn became readily available, and affordable, to the masses. Cotton was difficult to spin by hand and poorly spun cotton was ill-suited for weaving. However, mill-spun yarn was both strong enough and cheap enough to use at will. It was also much easier to use than wool. Cotton yarn did not need to be scoured, washed, or sized. Sizing required dipping woolen yarn in a homemade glue-like solution of eggs, water, and flour. This helped strengthen the yarn and keep it moving smoothly through the loom. Commercially produced cotton saved the weaver a great deal of time and effort.

The coverlet developed as a distinctly American art form in the 1810s, as a patriotic symbol of American ingenuity. The southern United States produced ample amounts of the fiber; Americans perfected methods for harvesting and utilizing their native crop. Though the Revolution was over, the British still hoped to force an American reliance on British industry. They flooded the United States market with cheap cotton textiles produced in India. The British surmised that if imported textiles were easily obtained, perhaps Americans would not go through the trouble of creating their own textile mills. Instead, Americans worked to develop their own mills and cotton products. Therefore, homemade coverlets were a way to demonstrate American independence, an alternative to British cotton exports. While nowhere stated as such, one might hypothesize that the red, white, and blue of the standard coverlet reflected this patriotic stance.

The coloring of the Goldstein's coverlet stands as an anomaly, a lone black sheep amidst a hundred white. While it is possible the coverlet's weaver deviated from the standards set by her neighbors, another explanation may prove more reasonable. Fueled by Arts and Crafts societies eager to resurrect folk craft, the arts of coverlet weaving and patchwork quilting were once again in fashion at the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps this coverlet was made in the revivalist spirit.

-- Natasha Thoreson, Collection Assistant

Watch for the final installment of the "Quilts and Coverlets in the Collection" blog trilogy, coming soon.

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redquilt1.jpgWhole cloth four-poster quilt, 1750-1780, wool and linen, 99 x 97in. Goldstein Museum of Design, Gift of Mona Brown 1999.069.001

Among the oldest textiles in the GMD's collection, this quilt is said to date to back to Colonial America. Though visually quite different from its colorful patchwork and appliquéd cousins, this somewhat sedate bedcover is nevertheless easily identified as a quilt. It is crafted from two solid-colored panels: one faded red, the other a pale gold. Sandwiched between is a layer of natural wool batting, visible through a smattering of moth holes.


These three layers are then joined - or quilted - together with regularly-spaced stitches to form a Neoclassical design. This type of quilt is known as a whole cloth quilt, and was the earliest form of quilting done in the Colonies.


Whole cloth quilts were routinely imported to the Colonies from England. England's textile industry was well-developed; textiles were thus easily obtained. Homespun quilts were quite rare in the 18th century. Creating fabric from scratch was difficult and time-consuming, especially when added to an already burdensome list of daily chores. Homespun fabric likely complemented, rather than replaced, commercial products. However, several small clues indicate that this quilt was, in fact, homemade. The first clue is obvious: the quilt's unusual "T" shape. This shape is unique to New England and was essentially unknown outside the region. Made to fit neatly around the tall spindles framing a four-poster bed, this type of quilt was created specifically for a New England home, most likely by a citizen of the region. The unusual piecing also indicates it was made by hand, utilizing scraps created by notching the fabric to fit the bed.


The second clue is the quilt's Neoclassical design, which came into vogue after 1760. The political atmosphere of mid-18th-century New England was heated. The 1760s saw homemade cloth-making acquire potent political meaning as Parliament's effort to tax the colonies provoked boycotts of British goods. The country's first do-it-yourself movement took center stage as enterprising women were celebrated for their ingenuity and patriotism.


- Natasha Thoreson, GMD Collections Assistant

Watch for upcoming blog posts on other interesting quilts in the GMD collection.

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This fall, the College of Design's Text and Image class (GDES 3351) was asked to design a graphic identity (the look that unifies all the promotional materials for an event) for the upcoming Goldstein exhibition, "Signed by Vera: Scarves by an Iconic Designer." This was no small task, as every exhibition requires postcards, posters, banners, and text panels that work together to quickly convey its tone and content to the public.

This is not the first time the Goldstein has collaborated with students. Previous exhibitions have featured student work, including "Quest for the World's Best Baskets," "Redefining, Redesigning Fashion," and "Printed Textiles: Pattern Stories."


The project started in October with a presentation about Vera scarves and the designer responsible for their success, Vera Neumann. The exhibition themes were discussed, helping students gain a sense of what message these postcards and posters need to send. Following the sneak peek, students were provided with images of the Goldstein's Vera scarves - over 200 - and a short list of requirements. Aside from this, they were free to experiment.

verascarvesDEC2013.jpgScarves by Vera Neumann (American, 1907-1993), Goldstein Museum of Design, Gift of David Anger and James Broberg.

Goldstein staff members were asked to attend two formal critiques. During the first session, each student presented three ideas in draft form. The best of the three was selected. Students then developed that design into a final product.

On December 18, 2013, the class presented their final designs. With 25 excellent designs to choose from, Goldstein staff had a difficult decision to make. In the end, a design by Aimee Brouchard was selected. Aimee's playful composition features a large photo of Vera, resplendent in her signature blonde bob hairstyle and thick black glasses, surrounded by flowers designed for her iconic scarves.


by Natasha Thoreson

Signed by Vera: Scarves by an Iconic Designer will be on display in Gallery 241, McNeal Hall
May 17 - June 29, 2014.
Opening Party: Friday, May 16, 6-8pm

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The History and Future of Product Design

In a new course being offered at the University of Minnesota this spring, "The History and Future of Product Design" (PDes 3170), students from diverse majors across the University will spend the semester examining the key movements, figures, philosophies and technologies that have advanced the field of industrial/product design, and investigating how this historical foundation continues to inform and inspire the designers of today and tomorrow.

mies_brno_chair_starck_alessi_drskud.jpg left: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich "Brno" chair (c. 1929-30) right: Philippe Starck for Alessi "Dr. Skud" fly swatter (1998)

Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to work hands-on with objects from the museum's collection and to explore firsthand the evolution of technology and the application of new materials and processes to everyday consumer goods. Students will then apply their understanding of these factors to forecast future trends and continuing developments in the fields of industrial and product design.

zeisel_tea_service.jpg Eva Zeisel for Castleton China "Museum White" tea service (1943)

Design graduate student Curt Lund, whose own research focus is on design history and collection, will be leading the class in activities that engage the meaning-making process of design history and underline the role of creativity, innovation, discovery, and expression across the discipline. "At the heart of this curriculum is a critical exploration of design and an understanding of what designed objects and environments can mean to consumers and their quality of life," Lund said. "The Goldstein is a perfect partner in this effort, as these ideas are also fundamental to the museum's own mission and vision."

Goldstein Museum AppJOUR 4991Spring2014.jpg

In the second semester of a year-long collaboration with the Goldstein Museum of Design, the "Goldstein Museum App" course (JOUR 4991/ ArtH 3940) will create content (text, video, photography, audio) for an iPad application that will allow the public to explore the museum's collection in a new and dynamic way. As students plan the app, they will focus on creating an intuitive user experience with multiple levels of interaction and engagement.

Taught by Camille LeFevre (arts journalist, college instructor, and editor of The Line), the course will allow students from departments across the University to collaborate. They will bring diverse skill sets including graphic design, video and audio shooting and production, art-historical research, writing and journalism, photography, UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) and interactive/immersive online/mobile environments, and app development to the process. Through feedback from the GMD staff throughout the semester, an app will be designed that will make the museum's collection accessible to a whole new audience.

Both courses are still open for registration. Sign up today!

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