Rachel Lieu, Registrar/Archivist
Have I mentioned lately in History Matters how much fun it is to work at a museum? This week was a particular delight because I changed the dress on display in the Museum’s Hotel del Gallery. As a college student, I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where I saw an employee fluffing dresses during an exhibition of Christian Dior gowns. Upon realizing that I could play dress- up with valuable vintage garments for a living, I knew exactly what to do with my Art History degree. Changing costumes has been my favorite part of this career since the beginning.
Last season the museum displayed a lovely Victorian day dress from the turn on the century. This voluminous dress transported the viewer back in time to the world of afternoon teas and hours spent promenading along the sea wall on Ocean Boulevard. The gown was made of heavy silk and was carefully constructed with stays and a sewn-in corset.
This 1930s-era summer gown illustrates just how drastically thirty years can change the face of fashion.
A 1930s-era summer gown. RECENT DONATIONS
Ray Schott: Photo album and additional photographs of a home being moved from Orange Avenue to 234 Soledad Place in 1984.
James Cahill: A pin from a Coronado film festival and one brochure from the opening of the golf course.
Gene Kemp: 1910-1960 History of US Naval Aviation bound notebook, and one Coronado Magazine.
Elsie Jane Plumb: Oral history interview about her life in Coronado, mother and wife of a prominent Coronado doctor.
Susan Ring Keith: 27 NewsMaps (shown on right) that depict World War II through maps, illustrations and photographs distributed by the war department to educate soldiers about events regarding battles. Six other maps and illustrations, also about World War II.
The dress is constructed of satin with a lace overlay with inserts on the full skirt. What really makes this dress special, and a hallmark of its era, is the fact that the fabric is cut on the bias. A dress with fabric cut on the bias refers to the technique of cutting fabric in the diagonal direction of the cloth resulting in a full-skirted dress that hangs very gracefully and clings to the natural curves of a woman’s body. The style was popularized by French designer Madeline Vionnet and was a pleasant change from the rather formless style of the 1920s, and the stiff and corseted style of the earlier decades.
The bias-cut dress allowed a woman’s body to show its natural curves without the addition of padding in the hips, busts and bottoms. The dress in the Museum’s collection could have been worn for a day at the polo field or dinner in the Crown Room. A small weight is attached to the low back of the dress to ensure that the fabric hangs properly and the woman’s small frame. Dresses of this type were frequently worn and made popular by movie stars like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo.
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