Fashionably Late

by Judi Christy

In January 1982, a few months prior to my graduation from the Journalism School at Kent State University, you could find me wearing red pegged pants, a super skinny neck tie and a bowling shirt that once belonged to a “Joe.” What you couldn’t find me doing was having interest in the largest and most valuable gift offered the University since its founding in 1910. As I would read in the Daily Kent Stater, the gift of 4,000 costumes and accessories, nearly 1,000 pieces of decorative art and a 5,000 volume reference library, from fashion partners Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, would be the foundation of the Kent State University Museum and closely linked to the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, which officially offered the fashion design major in the following year.

Fast forward to May 2016. After planning an outing for my female in-laws and daughter, I pointed the Audi to the former White Hall and set out for a day of high fashion fun. You could find me wearing couture from Charming Charlies (the discount rack) and scratching my head that Captain Brady’s was now (of course) a Starbuck’s. I had not been on campus for decades.

But the “rock” was still on the lawn covered with Greek-lettered paint, offering a jolly backdrop to the black squirrels scampering around it. I was finally here.

The Kent State Museum (not really called the Fashion Museum) is $4 for alumni and free for current students. We got a discount and a wheelchair for my mother-in-law, both cheerfully granted by the Museum attendants, dressed quite spiffily in jackets and ties. The tone was set.

We were the only ones visiting at 10:30 a.m. on that Saturday. So, we were free to talk loudly (my mother-in-law requires it) and spend as much time as desired to ponder, read, giggle, gawk and gleefully imagine a time gone by and a figure boasting a 15” waistline. Those darn Victorians!

There are currently six exhibits running with the aforementioned Fashion Timeline exhibit that delightfully includes two centuries of fashion history, and how it was influenced by political, technological and cultural developments. Three rooms house this collection, which will stay consistent until June 2018, when the clothing and related artifacts (jewelry, glassware, purses, etc.) will be swapped to other pieces in the Museum’s collection but keeping the same order and theme. The final room in the Fashion Timeline, was admittedly my favorite, focusing on jazz and Art Deco, and peeking my interest for the collection that I really came to see.

FLAPPER STYLE: 1920S FASHION

Ever since I fell in love with Jay Gatsby, probably in 10th grade, I have adored the drop-waisted, fringe-infused style of the flapper. Daisy would have done these garments justice, as they, a bit longer, sleeker and oh so elegant than there Edwardian predecessors, were truly works of art. As the curator notes read, “The term, flapper, refers to the generation of young women who came to age just as World War I ended and shocked the older generation with their short hair and short skirts, their drinking and smoking and swearing. Flappers faced a world strikingly different from the one their mothers knew and their clothing reflected this dramatic break with the past.” Had I been older, taller and thinner — I so would have epitomized this gal.

But, I was destined for punk pants and shoulder pads.

So, on our visit, I was forced to stay behind the gold rope. But, the view was spectacular. All the glitz and glamour of a Gin Ricky affair can be imagined by viewing this stunning collection – in person. The 40+ pieces including undergarments, evening wraps, sportswear, menswear and footwear – and of course the dresses – will be up through Labor Day 2016.

If you visit before July 31, you will also view INSIDE OUT: REVEALING CLOTHING’S HIDDEN SECRETS

This is truly a behind the scenes (or more accurately, below the belt) view of the hidden workmanship under beautiful handmade custom clothing. In many cases, the inside is more beautiful than the outer garment as the hand-stitching, weights, pockets, quilted linings, boning, ruffles and labels all come to light when the garments are flipped inside out. The exhibit truly highlights what lies beneath the rise and fall of hemlines or the tightening and loosening of waistlines. You will be fascinated by this showing and a little disgusted that your garments only sport an interior of poor machine stitching and a (not) made in the USA label. I left wishing that I didn’t skip out of Home Ec at Ellet High School.

But, we cannot turn back time – or reclaim that Singer sold at the yard sale.

So, we continued as spectators. As such, we ended our visit with FOCUS: FIBER 2016
I was probably more in touch with this exhibit, having seen this type of art form in Canton and beyond and being fascinated and amused by what artists can do with yarn, string, wool and imagination. Focus: Fiber 2016 is a juried exhibition of contemporary fiber art coordinated by Textile Art Alliance. Textile Art Alliance (TAA), an affiliate group of the Cleveland Museum of Art. It runs through July 3.

My travel mates were a bit perplexed by the offerings, 56 works of contemporary fiber art, including weaving, basketry, quilts, tapestry, felting, and embroidery. Some of it was admittedly odd. But, I like odd. And, since I planned the outing, I made the girls wander and read the artists’ notes before allowing everyone to exit through the gift shop.

We had a lot to talk about at lunch, with everyone enjoying the visit. “Let’s make this an annual thing,” I think I heard one of them say.

The Kent State Museum
515 Hilltop Drive
Kent, Ohio 44242

Regular Hours:
Monday and Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 am to 4:45 p.m.
Sunday Noon to 4:45 p.m.