A glorious dressing-up box of vintage clothes worn by the greatest New York fashion icons is being prized open – and you can be there to peer inside.
There is everything from the fur bunny mask and gown that actress Candice Bergen wore to Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball, to Rosie the Riveter’s wartime jumpsuit.
Visitors can watch staff at Museum of the City of New York dressing and photographing mannequins in trendsetting outfits from the 40s to the 60s, including clothes worn by Lauren Bacall and Wallis Simpson.
All the garments at Dressing Room: Archiving Fashion were worn by notable New York women and document the city’s arrival as a fashion capital.
Curator Phyllis Magidson said: “Very few individuals have a true idea of what is entailed in dressing a mannequin with an archival garment, so we wanted to demystify the process.
“We are handling pieces that were not always perfectly proportioned. So we are happy to provide an opportunity for the public to see the complexity of the process, while doing our job of making the garments look as close to when they were worn as possible.”
The public will be able to see vintage New York fashion in all its glory – and may even get the chance to ask questions at quieter times, though there are also multi-media screens and information panels.
Magidson said: “Collections staff are working just a few feet in front of the visitors, and guests have a clear view of the garments. We do have plenty of exhibition highlights, like the garments from Capote’s Black and White Ball.”
Other showstoppers include Harlem designer Ruby Bailey’s ‘Bugs’ cocktail dress from the 50s, which is printed with webs and adorned with spiders and jeweled bees, as well as the Balenciaga lace gown worn by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes author Anita Loos.
“The pieces designed by Haute Couture House of Balenciaga, spanning the 1940s through the 1960s, are the most fragile. These are especially sensitive because they are multilayered garments by design, many containing custom boning and many depending upon radical contrasts in fabric delicacy,” explained Magidson.
Dressing Room is part of the museum’s project to digitize and catalog 400 women’s garments for the online Collections Portal, so they are available to social historians, fashion scholars, costume designers, and the general public.
The museum’s Ronay Menschel Director, Whitney Donhauser, added: “Dressing Room offers a unique opportunity to see garments that embody the pinnacle of last century’s NYC fashion scene and to experience first-hand how the Museum of the City of New York is working to make our permanent collection widely accessible to a 21st century audience.”
*Dressing Room: Archiving Fashion is open Monday – Friday, 10am-12.30pm and 1.30-3.30pm until March 25, 2016.