Several of Orange County's best-known families were represented at the Saturday night soiree--the Chapmans, the Muckenthalers, the Kraemers and the Starbucks. But what elite occasion was this? The opening of the Performing Arts Center? The re-opening of the Laguna Art Museum? The Philharmonic Society's gala?
No--the occasion was the more modest opening of "75 Years of Fashion," a showcase of Orange County fashion from 1887-1962 at Fullerton's Muckenthaler Cultural Center. And guests weren't seeing the Chapmans or the Kraemers themselves--only their clothes.
The fact is, clothes are a lot more important than you may think, exhibit curator Joann Driggers said. "After all, clothes reflect the economic and social values of the society which produces them," she said.
For example, the oldest complete outfit in the exhibit is a pale green faille with a bustle and a train. Where could a woman go in such a dress? Not too far, according to Driggers, who noted that this 1880s dress was worn by a woman who was essentially homebound. By contrast, only 10 years later, a navy velvet day dress eliminated the bustle and train as women began to enter the workplace as clerks and secretaries.
Sometimes, though, there's an irrationality about fashion, as was the case for the 1956 strapless silk ball gown with bouffant skirt held out by layers of netting. Designed by Don Loper and featuring hand-painted roses, it was worn to one of Eisenhower's Inaugural Balls. One skeptical guest commented, "1956? That's not history."
Speaking of history, curator Driggers suggested that today's beautiful clothes should be saved and donated to the museum, since "today will eventually be history." Driggers is vice president of conservation of the Textile and Costume Guild, sponsor of the exhibit, which runs through Dec. 27.
It was clear that the exhibit was lovingly prepared, as in the careful attention to detail in the handling of yellow-satin beaded shoes with pointed toes that were worn to the University of California, Berkeley, senior prom in 1911.
The shoes have stylized Louis XV heels, which, according to the glossary of fashion terms, "curve inward at the center and outward at top and bottom."
Despite the center's generic-sounding name, it houses primarily the textile and costume collection that was begun six years ago with about 300 pieces and now includes 5,000 clothing and accessory items.
"Besides this show, we've moved our whole program to the Muckenthaler for a few months while our home, the Fulleron Museum Center, is being renovated," said Arbie Keown, president of the guild.
To celebrate the opening, program director Dorothy Macaulay and program chairman Marilyn Paris, president of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center Foundation, arranged a delightful reception featuring pianist Jan Jordan's versatile and accomplished piano reflections of eras from the 1880s to the 1960s: ragtime, jazz and big band.
While sipping champagne and sampling savory canapes (such as salmon pate and curried deviled eggs) major donors were commended, including Fullerton Racquetball World Executive Club, the Muckenthaler's Center Circle Guild and the City of Fullerton.