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Museum of Wisconsin Art examines the ‘state of fashion’


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A unique opportunity to better understand how people “design themselves” is coming to the Museum of Wisconsin Art. A State of Fashion opens June 11 at the West Bend museum.

A State of Fashion chronicles high-end historic and contemporary styles, ranging from before the Civil War to today.

All the exhibits have distinct ties to the Badger state and consider how people use fashion to design themselves, according to Laurie Winters, MOWA president and CEO.

“People think of Wisconsin as the land of green-and-gold jerseys and don’t think of high-end fashion emerging from the state,” Winters says. “But I think once they see the exhibits, people will be stunned by the caliber of Wisconsin fashion and design.”

Propelled by both happenstance and opportunity over the past 18 months, museum officials decided to concurrently present four distinct exhibits in this summer-long show. They are:

The Roddis Collection: American Style and Spirit

From haute couture to everyday wear, this collection dates to before the Civil War and includes fashions from 1850 to 1995.

The collection was uncovered in 1972 in an attic in the Marshfield home of the Roddis family, which owned a lumber and veneer firm in the city and was active in civic affairs.

Worn by six generations of Roddis family members, the clothing is now housed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.


The collection also is the subject of American Style and Spirit: The Fashions and Lives of the Roddis Family by Jane Bradbury and Edward Maeder, a New York Times Best Seller catalogue.

“We wished that we had known about the collection before it went to the Ford Museum,” Winters says. “Fortunately, we were able to make a deal to bring the collection here.”

Florence Eiseman: Designing Childhood for the American Century

A collection of high-end children’s garments from the Milwaukee-based Florence Eiseman Company illustrates why the clothing line was instrumental in fashioning the standard look for the post-World War II American child.

The exhibit offers a cultural history of the Eiseman look from its inception in 1945 to the present — through more than 125 historic garments gathered from museum and university collections, private collections and the company’s own archive.

Eiseman’s work attracted the attention of A-listers — Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor, the Kennedys and the Obamas, who commissioned the company to design special baby gifts.

Contemporary Threads: Wisconsin Fashion

This exhibit fast-forwards to now, offering a look at haute couture that pushes the boundaries of fashion.

Featuring the work of 10 contemporary designers, including four Project Runway alumnae and a designer for Lady Gaga, Contemporary Threads offers creative and astonishing works from trend-setting designers with Wisconsin connections.

“During the exhibition, our website is going to offer a who’s who among recognizable people in Milwaukee and Madison,” Winters explains. “We want to know what clothing they wear to work and what they wear for a night on the town.”

Daniel Arnold: A Paparazzo for Strangers

The final exhibit of the four will present a series of fashion photographs seen through the lens of New York City street photographer Daniel Arnold.

The Milwaukee native has his work regularly featured in Vogue, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

“Daniel Arnold has become the go-to street photographer for fashion,” Winters says. “He’s never done an exhibition before and we thought this should be his first.”

The combined exhibits offer an exhaustive look at fashion’s past, present and future.

“We define art as more than just 2D and 3D works hanging on a wall,” she explains. “We include fashion, animation, graphic arts and commercial design, which we will be doing in the near future.”

“It’s the things you live with, the kind of furniture you have, dishware that you use and, yes, the clothes you choose to wear,” she adds. “How people design themselves is very interesting thing.”Read more at:plus size formal dresses


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