A vibrant display of blooming styles will take center stage as Flower Power: Flora in Fashion debuts February 4 at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio.
For Gayle Strege, who is curating both Flower Power and the complementary exhibit, Botany in Buttons, showcasing humankind’s relationship with nature through the clothes that we wear provides a unique look at fashion.
“The colors and shapes of flowers, and whether the motifs are printed, painted or applied, are represented in various scales in this exhibit, showcasing creativity of designers,” she said.
Strege is the curator of the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection at The Ohio State University, a position she has held since 1996 and where she has curated more than 30 exhibitions. Flower Power: Flora in Fashion displays women’s garments, shoes and accessories drawn from the collection, and all of the items in the exhibition feature flower-inspired designs and/or plant-based materials.
The Botany in Buttons exhibition features hundreds of items from the Ann W. Rudolph Button Collection, a comprehensive collection of historic buttons within the Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection. Visitors can enjoy the floral designs of hundreds of buttons made of glass, metal, ceramic, bamboo, vegetable ivory (tagua nut) and other media.
In anticipation of the exhibitions’ openings at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, Strege shared some of her favorite pieces and what visitors can expect when they experience the creativity and beauty of this art.
What are some highlights from the exhibition that visitors can look forward to seeing?
We have a dress that was worn by Ladybird Johnson and a hat by Annie Glenn. Other celebs include Terre Blair Hamlisch, Betty Furness and local Lancaster people, Dorothy Peters and Harriet Fulton. There are several designer and couture dresses and accessories including Yves St Laurent, Dior, Irene, Hanae Mori, Pauline Trigere, Hattie Carnegie, Bill Blass and Ungaro.
What are some of your favorites that you are excited to showcase?
There is a Luis Estevez 1950s ballgown printed with blue roses that I absolutely love. It has a bit of a bustle in the back. The Ladybird Johnson dress is by Mollie Parnis and made entirely of white lace in a floral pattern. There are a couple beaded 1920s dresses and three coat/dress ensembles that are lovely. Another favorite that is not a designer is a gown that has a full white organdy skirt of a couple layers with appliques of daisies on it. There is also a dandelion hat that I absolutely love.
How does the exhibit reflect how the use of natural elements in fashion has evolved over the years?
This exhibit focuses on 20th century fashion from small chainstitch embroidered florals and larger beaded floral motifs in the 1920s, to overall small floral prints in the 1930s and 40s to larger scale prints in the 1950s. These patterns repeated themselves in small scale overall prints in the 1970s and even larger scale motifs in the later 1970s and 1980s.
What are some of the buttons from the Ann W. Rudolph Button Collection that you are looking forward to sharing with visitors?
There is a card of ceramic buttons with depictions of roses, and another with clear lucite buttons featuring different florals. There are rare Satsuma ceramic buttons and 18th century buttons with floral designs.
The oldest are from the 18th century, the others range in age from mid-19th century ceramic and glass and metal through mid-20th plastics. In addition to roses, we have cards of buttons of lily of the valley, fuschia, iris, morning glories, poppies, pansies and others of mixed florals. Among the ceramic buttons are some Royal Copenhagen and Staffordshire examples.
Are there any other aspects of these exhibits that visitors shouldn’t miss?
The educational gallery shows how plant fibers like cotton, linen, pineapple, grasses and leaves have been used to create clothing from very simple grass skirts and bark cloth to more complex processing that results in the cloth we use to make clothing today.