Museum Notes: Toledo, Textiles & Vionnet

toledo_fitThanks to the many thoughtful visitors who sent word of these events.

The Museum at FIT is featuring a retrospective of Isabel Toledo called Fashion from the Inside Out, June 16 through September 26, 2009. The blurb on site says she’s “little known to the general public”, is that true? I’ve always been a huge fan (even more after she said this) and I’m notoriously out of the loop. As self effacing as Vionnet, she considers herself a technician rather than a fashion designer. I’ve heard there’s a catalog to accompany the retrospective available for purchase but I can’t locate the means to purchase one. If one of you goes, can you please contact me so I can arrange to buy one? Thanks. The photo at right is one of hers, I love this dress.

Long awaited, Les Arts Décoratifs museum in Paris is featuring a major exhibition of Vionnet’s work June 2009 through January 31, 2010. The website says the material is based on dresses and patterns (750!) the couturier donated in 1952. More information (in French) is here. Ann also mentions a new book about Vionnet will be published by Rizzoli in September; now available for pre-ordering. Since I still don’t have enough books, I imagine I’ll be getting that one too. In any event, if you attend this event, do tell all.

Lastly, did you know there’s an American Textile History Museum in Lowell MA? Recently reopened in June after renovations, the museum tells stories of American life through textile production history. It is also in part, a slice of women and labor histories. While not without controversy, the Lowell mills were the first mechanisms by which women could live, have the opportunity to be educated and earn independent incomes at a time when these were untenable. As you would imagine, the museum features the history of weaving technology. The museum also features interactive activities for children and families. Sounds like fun.

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  1. Naava W. says:

    Wow, that website is beautiful! Do you know if the book has patterns in it like the Japanese Vionett book? I would love to try and recreate some of those.

  2. Sandra B says:

    I am a HUGE fan of Isabel Toledo, and have a wonderful book on her work that I bought in Japan 10 years ago. The book has many schematics, some of which are very intriguing. I’ll try to remember to bring it home so I can post the ISBN number. I think that she is probably my biggest influence. I am working on a pattern now that she inspired (one pattern piece, cut 4 times, sewn differently each time to make tops, pants, skirt or dress.)

    If I hadn’t just blown my book budget for the next few months I’d get the new book as well.

    I think it is true that the general public doesn’t know her that well. I discovered her through a Vogue home sewing pattern, but I’m yet to met someone in my usual circles who shares my admiration. If they are aware of the Toledos, it’s because they’ve seen Ruben’s pictures in a coffee table book.

  3. queengilda says:

    hello kathleen, first of all i wanted to thank you for visiting my blog a couple of weeks ago and commenting on the name of my new brand that i am slowly trying to build. you recommended that i use “queen gilda” as the name of my brand, since that is how i had built my personal brand online. thank you so much and i am honoured that you visited and sort of embarrassed at my measly little collection at the same time. i did want to use my own name, but i guess, not now. for the simple fact that i am still in school and still have a lot to learn, and have seen too many friends use their own names and go bankrupt with it. i want to save my name till when i’m older and know what i’m doing and completely confident in making it more of a success! is that silly or am i just cushioning myself for failure? :) once i’m done with my senior thesis, perhaps i should evaluate!!

    anyway, i was thinking of making a trip to FIT to see this exhibition too. i had extra summer classes there instead of at parsons, but all my classes had been on mondays when the museum was closed. next week i would go to take my transcript and hope to pop in and admire her pattern work though.

    if you would still like the book i could buy one and get it sent to you. let me know! thanks again.

  4. Eric H says:

    “the Lowell mills were the first mechanisms by which women could live, have the opportunity to be educated and earn independent incomes at a time when these were untenable. ”

    Pietra Rivoli notes in Travels of a t-shirt that this is a pretty common thing that happens to each society: first the factories come in, then they hire girls from the countryside, then the girls realize they can do more with their lives, then they get educated and become politically active. Looking at China today is like looking backward at the US.

  5. Donna S says:

    Wow! I love these retrospects and have seen two at the Paris Museum – Balenciaga and LaCroix. Traveling to Paris can be quit inexpensive. I use to book my travel. They feature some really great specials. If you subcribe to their newsletter you get heads up on the latest deals and can book before the cheaper hotels are taken. I might have to schedule a trip to see the Vionet exhibit. Anyone interested in a roommate?

  6. Sahara says:

    I’m a HUGE fan, for her construction techniques and imagination, but I also know that in the current business of fashion, such qualities aren’t that important, which is one reason why she’s not more widely known. Only older couture customers are concerned about construction. Young women at that level (alá Julia Restoin-Roitfeld) are hardly concerned; they don’t wear the clothes long enough after a season, to be. Shame. When you’re out dancing until 5am, you’d want your clothes to be well constructed, trust me.;-)

    The Toledo’s had a moment of public fame in fashion circles, during the 80’s. But they don’t consider themselves part of the fashion elite, so they don’t hold a bunch of licenses, aren’t on TV and are not public celebrities. Like Dries Van Noten, they actually sell CLOTHES, not themselves.

    Michelle Obama may have chosen Isabel’s outfit for the inauguration, but the First Lady isn’t liked enough by the press to be considered an American fashion icon. Many fashion editors thought the fabric looked like upholstery. But hey, if your look is on the President’s wife, it doesn’t matter what the editors think, does it? This is why Isabel is still important and still matters. I bet she has more international customers, as Americans are too short-sighted.

    Ms. Toledo is one of those rare talents the fashion industry doesn’t deal with, especially since she decided in ’98’ to work on HER schedule, and not the fashion calendar. And in an age where mega corporations now own fashion she’s not profitable, as Jones Apparel thought when they let her go from Anne Klein after 2 collections, which in my opinion is not enough time to re-develop a brand.

    I’m sure the Toledos do well enough to maintain their integrity. The museum show will be good PR for her, but I’m sure her global legion of fans, (including myself!) keeps her going.

  7. Mandi says:

    I have the Isabel Toledo book. I’d forgot that I’d pre-ordered and the day it arrived I ended up sitting and reading through the whole thing. It is lovely, as is her work. Over the years I have heard her name here and there, and it is a huge shame that someone who is talented, who’s clothing is so beautiful (but not on trend, as someone in the book pointed out, rather viciously) isn’t more known. But not everybody wants fame and fortune, either!

  8. I always go to FIT Museum when I’m in NYC, but I don’t pay attention to what’s there ahead of time. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve admired Isabel Toledo for some time and now I’m definitely going to NYC before the exhibit changes.

    Also, I just read in American Style that there’s an exhibit at the Textile Museum in Washington DC called “Contemporary Japanese Fashion: The Collection of Mary Baskett” including works by Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo that I plan to get to. The red dress in the photo in the magazine by Miyake is enough to get me there even if that was all I saw.


  9. Grace says:

    We took a tour of the Lowell mills. I think it was with the NPS. It is well worth a day trip from Boston. When we went this year for Mark’s MIT reunion, we tried to go to Lowell, but the museum was closed the day we had free. There’s also a quilt museum in Lowell. Next trip.

  10. Karen says:

    I saw the Toledo exhibit at FIT the day it opened, and I ordered the book. The book is fabulous, but if there is any way at all to get to the exhibit, I highly recommend it. There are clothes on display there that are not in the book, and on the information card for each piece at the exhibit there are diagram of Toledo’s highly original pattern pieces – which was really helpful because some of her designs are so unusual I had absolutely no idea how they were constructed without looking at the diagrams.

  11. Marianne Isaacs says:

    I went to Paris a few months ago and saw thw vionnet exhibition. It was fantastic. Even my 16 year old son loved it. Its beautifully set out and there are some mirrors so the garments can be seen from all angles. JUst fantastic!!

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