American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

Every time my mother comes to visit New York, she always asks what fashion exhibits are at the Metropolitan and FIT museums, and then requests to go as soon as possible. When a new exhibit comes through that she misses, I shed a little tear for Mom because I always love sharing them with her (Hearing her ooohh and aaahhh in a heavy Texan accent is very charming).

At the Met and the Brooklyn museum currently are collections on the evolution of the style of American woman, that I know my mother would absolutely adore, and I’m bummed we can’t share it together. According to the Met’s website, the collection focuses on “archetypes of American femininity through dress, the exhibition reveals how the American woman initiated style revolutions that mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation.”

I am going to try and check out the Met’s version this weekend in between intense bouts of labor on the Berninas. Although it’s supposed to be 100 degrees out, so I may not leave the comfort of my window unit and my Netflix account.

Both collections have pieces from some of my all-time favorites: Claire McCardell, Elsa Schiaparelli, Valentina, Charles James, Adrian, Madeleine Vionnet, and many many more. Check out the video below for a tour of the collection, or take a look at the Met’s Flickr for a behind-the-scenes look at how the exhibit was assembled.

(photos from Met’s Flickr account)

Nicole Smith is an author, editor, designer, and instructor who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Check out her latest book, Skirt-A-Day Sewing, out now at your local bookstore, or online.
  1. I’d probably go to that. Can affect Texan accent.

  2. Love those vintage American style of clothing. These classy looks from the old-English time looks really great. I hope this style will re-surface someday. Anyway, nice post!

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