TFC celebrates Fashion in Residence at NorthPark Center

Caftan, green and white, by Bill BlassMarch 2021 — Celebrating a century of at-home dress at NorthPark Center in Dallas, the Texas Fashion Collection's Fashion in Residence exhibition explores the design innovations and cultural changes associated with clothing worn in private, domestic spaces. From transforming homes into venues for entertaining during Prohibition in the 1920s to the COVID-19 pandemic reshaping our living spaces into primary sites for leisure, our wardrobes have long responded to changing demands of our times. Curated by TFC Director Annette Becker, the exhibition is scheduled from March 29 through June 6, 2021.

From a design perspective, at-home contexts have inspired styles previously unconsidered by Euro-American fashion consumers, Becker said. While American designers turning to the Middle East and Asia expanded their design vocabularies, this cultural curiosity also resulted in the appropriation and the exotification of traditional forms of non-Western dress and culture. The remnants of that humanistic yet problematic inspiration-seeking remain today in the forms of caftans, wide-legged trousers, and kimono-inspired leisurewear.

Within American popular culture, advances in at-home dress empowered women by gently challenging the acceptable-dress boundaries. While society did not widely accept women wearing pants until the 1970s, hostess ensembles as early as the 1920s included bifurcated garments. When televisions flooded American homes in the 1950s, designer Claire McCardell designed the first “television suit,” an ensemble somewhere between a house dress and nighttime pajamas. The 1960s sexual revolution pushed lingerie out of the bedroom and onto the pages of fashion magazines, enlivening intimate apparel options. And in 2020, Nell Diamond, the creative director of “fashion world’s favorite home brand,” designed the trademarked “Nap Dress,” a lightweight cotton garment made for many people’s new favorite at-home leisure activity.

Fashion in Residence draws from the nearly 20,000 historical and designer garments and accessories that make up the Texas Fashion Collection. Part of the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas and housed at the Denton campus, this unique repository collects and documents historic dress and high fashion from past centuries through the present. The Texas Fashion Collection was created by various notable groups and individuals whose vision and style continue to inspire students, researchers, and visitors.

The UNT College of Visual Arts and Design fosters creative futures for its diverse student population through rigorous arts-based education, studio practice, scholarship, and research.

Image: Caftan designed by Bill Blass, manufactured by Maurice Rentner, silk jersey knit, 1966, a gift to the TFC by Neiman-Marcus. Inset: Vogue, September 1966.

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