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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful
Lunchtime with a Curator : Decorative Arts Design Series
Quick Tix Code: 1K0127
$45 Package Member
$55 Package Non-Member
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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.

JUL 19  Théâtre de la Mode: 1945 Haute Couture Endures through Fashion Dolls

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, the Germans repeatedly sought to move that city’s haute couture industry to Berlin and Vienna. They hoped to break what they viewed as the unjust monopoly of Paris and turn their own cities into cultural centers of the New Europe. The effort was unsuccessful, but from 1940 to 1944, Germany kept the Paris fashion houses from exporting, advertising, and making a profit.

Soon after the city was liberated in August 1944, its fashion industry devised a plan to inform the world that Paris couture was still alive and well: by creating miniature mannequins and fashions that were displayed in stage sets designed by prominent artists of the day. The Théâtre de la Mode premiered in Paris in March 1945—as a benefit for war relief—and it was still on view on May 8, when the war ended in Europe. The display then traveled to London and other European capitals. New fashions and stage sets were created for a 1946 tour that included stops in New York and San Francisco.

Apart from their history and visual appeal, the Théâtre de la Mode mannequins provide the missing link between wartime fashions and Dior’s 1946 New Look.

Joining Lay is Maryhill Museum of Art’s Curator, Steven Grafe to share the story, the designs, and the backdrops that represent a collection of 172 outfits by 52 Parisian couturiers, a reminder to the world that Paris still ruled fashion.

AUG 2   The Hermès Carré: The History of Fashion’s Most Iconic Accessory

No other accessory has the power to instantly transform an individual into a style icon as the Hermès Carré. The square silk scarf, coveted by royalty, celebrities, and ordinary folk alike is the epitome of luxury. Whether purchased for oneself, gifted on a special occasion, or inherited, the ownership of an Hermès Carré is a rite of passage for stylish women.

Originally a harness supplier to European nobility, Maison Hermès began to introduce clothing and accessories at the advent of the 20th century. Meticulously hand-crafted through nearly every stage of production, the Hermès Carré was first introduced in 1937. Over the years, the designs on the scarves have been inspired by historical events, famous personalities, architecture, cultural events, fantasy and science fiction, and everyday objects; no subject is too mundane to adorn the silk square. It is precisely this unique mix of craftmanship and whimsy that makes the scarves so coveted and collectible.

Lay is joined by art historian and collector Samantha Viksnins, who delves deeper into the history of the Hermès Carré, the production process of the limited-edition scarves, and illustrates what sets the Hermès designs apart from those of other luxury scarves.

AUG 16  The “Showstopper” Hats of Mae’s Millinery Shop

One of the many extraordinary exhibits in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is Mae’s Millinery Shop. Lifted nearly complete from its original home in Philadelphia, it is now recognized as a historical treasure. Mrs. Reeves was known for her stunning “showstopper” hats that were popular with women of all backgrounds, from schoolteachers to socialites like Mrs. du Pont, and performance stars Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. For 56 years, it was the place to discover your very best hat and a place for the community to gather. As a member of the NAACP, Mae Reeves’ storefront served as a location for important political conversations of the day as well as a lolling place.

Mae’s daughter, Donna Limerick, joins Lay in a discussion of her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit, her memories of working in the shop dressed in a black dress, pearls, and heels while she waited on customers, and shares cherished family photographs. She also talks about her experience working with the curators at NMAAHC to create the exhibition dedicated to her mother and her shop. And, of course, there will be lots of “showstopper” hat images to view and enjoy.

Please Note: Individual sessions are available for individual purchase.

3 sessions

Photo caption (upper right): Clockwise: "Faïence" by Lucien Lelong, 1946 (Maryhill Museum of Art); Donna Limerick wears a replica of her mother Mae Reeves' hat designs (Photo: Sharon Farmer); Silk scarves by Hermès (Photo: Samantha Viksnins)


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This program is part of our
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