Join curator Elizabeth Lay, a regular lecturer on the topics of fashion, textiles, and American furniture, for an image-rich lunchtime lecture series focusing on decorative arts and design topics.
October 2 Fabulous Fakes: The Golden Age of American Costume Jewelry, 1935–65
In the mid-20th century, America overtook Europe as the world’s foremost designer and producer of costume jewelry— an astonishing achievement given France’s historic dominance of fashion, the pre-eminence of Austrian and German trained jewelry craftsmen, and the European sources of key jewelry materials such as rhinestones and Bohemian crystal. What uniquely American social and historic trends propelled the demand for and design of mass-produced, affordable jewelry?
Phyllis Gerstell, a decorative arts historian and costume jewelry expert and collector, explores the beauty and history of a now largely vanished American art form. She examines the wide variety of factors that inspired pieces that today may command prices rivaling those of fine jewelry. As she looks in detail at beautiful masterpieces by Trifari, Coro, the Pennino Brothers, Boucher, and others, she also addresses where to find vintage costume jewelry, what pieces to avoid, and research aids in building a collection.
October 16 “Designed for You”: Hats Created by Milliner Sara Sue of Virginia
Sara Sue Sherrill Waldbauer was Richmond’s most recognized milliner. From the early 1930s until she retired in 1973, she worked from the Amethyst Room at Miller & Rhoads, the South’s largest department store. Sara Sue designed custom hats for women up and down the East Coast. For over 40 years, she held seasonal fashion shows and dictated hat styles to her frequent customers. No woman’s wardrobe was complete without a hat, and in Richmond, owning a Sara Sue creation was a mark of status and taste.
As Sara Sue’s designs rose in popularity, so did her fashion shows. Her signature label declared “Designed for you by Sara Sue,” as she created fantasy confections that ranged from the ordinary to the outrageous. Nichol Gabor, curator of costume and textiles at Richmond’s Valentine Museum, offers a delightful look at the crowning glories worn by the city’s fashionable ladies who lunched.
October 30 Shoes and the American Revolution: Purchasing Patriotism, 1760s–70s
For those aligning themselves with the Patriot cause, shoes became an unexpected signifier of political allegiance in the decades leading up to the American Revolution. The selection of footwear was representative of colonial economic independence and symbolized a break from the yoke of trade with Great Britain.
While English-made silk, satin, leather, and wool shoes were highly coveted and shared much of the colonial American market, there was a decided shift to the patronage of local shoemakers from the 1760s on, upholding non-importation agreements and supporting one’s neighbor.
Kimberly Alexander, director of museum studies at the University of New Hampshire, surveys the London shops and New England “ten-footers” where shoemakers and their journeymen and apprentices crafted shoes for their consumers from both the elite and the everyday. She also examines the political rhetoric in newspapers and broadsides that addressed fashion and footwear along the Eastern Seaboard during that heady time.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit per session*
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit per session. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.