Two exhibitions at the Meadows Museum bring the art of fashion to life


Tthe Meadows Museum exhibition “Canvas and silk: historic fashion at the Museo del Traje in Madrid”Marks the first major collaboration between the Museo del Traje de Madrid, the Centro de Investigación del Patrimonio Etnológico (the Spanish National Museum of Fashion) and an American museum, as well as the first time that its collection of historical Spanish clothing and accessories is exposed to the United States.

Rather than having a standalone show – which the Meadows often do (including his 2007 show “Balenciaga and His Legacy: Haute Couture from the Texas Fashion Collection”)Meadows Museum curator Amanda W. Dotseth saw this partnership as an opportunity to bring the characters depicted in works in Meadows’ permanent collection to life. “I was really interested in trying to say something new about the permanent collection – to say something new about the works that our visitors already know and love, and to bring new energy to the collection,” says- she.

Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (Spanish, 1870-1945), Portrait of the Duchess of Arión, Marquise de Bay, 1918. Oil on canvas. (Photo by Kevin Todora.) | Mantón de Manila (embroidered Manila silk shawl), c. 1920. (Photo by Lucía Ybarra Zubiaga.)

When it was decided that the exhibit would inform the permanent collection, the games began. Dotseth and his co-curator of the exhibition, Elvira González of the Museo del Traje, compared their notes. “It was really fun because I was throwing a picture, for example, of our painting by Ignacio Zuloaga [The Bullfighter “El Segovianito,” 1912], and she was like, ‘We have a traje de luces’ – that’s what traditional bullfighting costumes are called – “and it’s even the same color as the paint”.

Through this process, Dotseth learned something new about the works she knows so well. “Just the preliminary exercise of browsing the permanent collection with the sole idea that I was looking for fashion items… I learned a lot, just looking at the collection with a different eye,” she says. “But once I spoke to [the team at Museo del Traje], it was a whole new level of knowledge.

Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (Spanish, 1870-1945), The bullfighter “El Segovianito”, 1912. (Photo by Kevin Todora.) | Traje de luces (chaquetilla, chaleco, calzón) [Bullfighter’s Costume], 1876-1900. (Photo by Jesús Madriñán.)

Suddenly the clothes themselves – along with the historical context of how they were made, how they were made, where the materials came from, how and why they were imported, and how they represented certain class distinctions – came to a head. added new meaning to the works. Even pieces that were considered less important have been given new meaning due to new revelations about the clothes depicted on them. “The paintings that are often stored or not normally exhibited in galleries with the Velasqueze, say, get their moment in the sun because they revealed something new and interesting about the history of fashion.” , says Dotseth.

Dress Infantil Isabel de Bourbón y Bourbón (Dress) [detail], ch. 1854-1866. (Photo by Francisco Javier Maza Domingo.)

A theme that emerges through the exhibition is the adoption of indigenous clothing by the upper classes to symbolize or affirm national identity or national exceptionalism. The collection includes two portraits of duchesses who carry items traditionally associated with Spain but, according to Dotseth, were appropriated or “borrowed” from working-class women and presented in a high fashion – which, at the time, was meant to do as the French do.

“We have a portrait of the Duchess of Medinaceli, and in her portrait she chose to wear a short bolero jacket and a red skirt with black ball fringes, which are absolutely not derived from French fashion and are very much derived from the Spanish region. dress, ”Dotseth says. “But, again, she always wears her corset, she always has her crinoline under her skirt, so the figure is still appropriate for what was called ‘dressing à la française’ – but she changed it with his bolero jacket and ball skirt to assert Spanishness in a way.

068 poblanas_001
Carl Nebel (German, 1802-1855), Poblanas of Picturesque and archaeological trip, in the most interesting part of Mexico, Paris: M. Moench [etc.], 1836. Hand colored lithograph, 22 x 29 in. (55.9 x 73.7 cm). DeGolyer Library, SMU.

TMeadows’ concomitant exhibition, “Image and identity: Mexican fashion in modern times», Curated by Akemi Luisa Herráez Vossbrink, member of the Center for Spain in America (CSA) at the Meadows Museum, presents photographs, prints, books and gouaches from the 19th and 20th centuries and builds on this theme of national identity and how its formation is often accompanied by a resurgence in the popularity of indigenous clothing.

A famous example is Frida Kahlo’s “deliberate appropriation” of indigenous clothing even though it is not of indigenous origin, says Dotseth. “She pointed to this kind of dress as proof of her Mexican character. It’s a similar process that occurs at two different times, but they run parallel in the way dress is used to assert national identity. It’s also a matter of national exception because you say that’s what makes me Mexican, or that’s what makes me Spanish. This still happens today, of course.

065 Charras
Mauricio Yáñez (Mexican, 1881-1939), Charras, Mexico, ch. 1918-1929. Gelatin silver print, 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (14 x 9 cm). DeGolyer Library, SMU.

Something else that is still happening today is the art of accessorizing. “Canvas & Silk” is divided into themes, including “Stepping Out,” which Dotseth calls “the classic Flâneur trope – walking down the street to see who is there and, also, to be seen. It’s not just about dressing a certain way, but having the right accessories. Hat. Gloves. They all convey information about you. Your wealth, your social status. Not only these things, but also your marital status… I took care to include not only the clothes, but also the accessories, because I advance the argument that they are often also essential to adapt to social norms than the clothes themselves. It seems like some things really never change.

Canvas and silk: historic fashion at the Museo del Traje in Madrid and Image & Identity: Mexican Fashion in the Modern Period, both on display at the Meadows Museum until January 9, 2022.

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