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Brave New World

March 17, 2011

Dress with close up of Rosette and laceThe exhibition Brave New World: Fashion and Freedom, 1911-1919 will be at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (3215 Market Street, Nesbitt Hall) from April 7th to May 7th. Brave New World is the Westphal College’s contribution to the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). PIFA is a citywide celebration of the arts that will pay homage to that spirit of collaboration and innovation that made magic in Paris 1910-1920.  The festival will be a celebration of works from that era and new creations inspired by the brashly avant-garde spirit of the period. The festival was made possible by an extraordinary grant from Philadelphia philanthropist Leonore Annenberg, whose vision for a city-wide celebration of the arts shaped its philosophy and programming.

Our exhibition will focus on Parisian fashion from 1911 through 1919 when, the interplay of the fine arts and fashion was particularly strong.  It was a pivotal decade where fashion changed dramatically and adventurous style-leaders cut their hair, abandoned corsets, adopted shorter skirts and the subdued color palette of the Edwardian Period was replaced by bright colors and fashionable black.

Clare Sauro, the curator of Drexel’s Historic Costume Collection, has selected garments and appropriate accessories from our  collection that range from a half-mourning day suit created by Philadelphia tailor, Henry Dietmann, to a shockingly short (for its time) lace evening dress from the Parisian couture house, Callot Soeurs. Of particular note is a spectacular evening dress by the designer Lucile. Dating from around 1913, this confection of lamé, tulle, silk and fur is an exceptional example of the lavish “orientalist” fashions that dominated the early 1910s. Brave New World: Fashion and Freedom, 1911-1919 was made possible through a Westphal College Mini-Grant with additional funding from the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA).

As part of the exhibition, on Thursday, April 14th at 7 PM we will welcome Rebecca Jumper Matheson, fashion historian and a faculty member in the History of Art department at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Matheson’s lecture “Beyond Romanticism: The Art, Commerce and Modernity of Lucile” will focus on the couturière Lucile (Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, 1863-1935), best known for her romantic dresses and boundary-pushing exoticism.