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Fashion for the Studious
Two new exhibits for garment-lovers whose adoration goes beyond the superficial.
This story warrants a personal anecdote so bear with me. This morning I sprinted from my apartment to my car, and then raced through construction-heavy traffic to get to work in time for an 8 a.m. photo shoot. I had to forgo coffee (which never happens) and I had even less time for makeup. But later this morning, as I washed my hands in the office bathroom's sink, I glanced at myself in the mirror, half expecting to cringe. To my surprise, my face looked warm, my cheeks were slightly flushed. Huh, I thought, given the lack of help from the beauty industry.

But then it occurred to me that my beige sweatshirt - which is embroidered with thousands of gold sequins - must be the answer. In fact, the sequins excelled at their job of refracting that warm light onto my face. No makeup necessary.

If this seems self-indulgent, let me get to the much-more-interesting point, which is Mount Mary University's next fashion exhibit. Opening to the public this Friday, the exhibit is all about the use of light and lighting techniques in the garment industry. "Sparkle and Shine," which will be held in Steimke Hall, will showcase pieces from the University's extensive costume collection in order to help students, and the  general public, understand how the use of shiny fabrics and helpful tools like sequins have evolved through the years.

Liz Gaston, who curates these exhibits, says the reasoning behind this showcase was twofold: she has always been fascinated by the psychological effects of light ("
Vikings always wore a silver pin; they believed that the reflective light protected them from harmful spirits," she says.); and because elements with shine tend to be harder to work with, so the exhibit will act as a practical teaching tool for students. 

Gaston also gave Milwaukee Magazine a few key pieces to look for, including a 2007 Christian Lacroix gold metallic evening gown topped with a purple metallic evening trench coat. (
"Who would think of designing a purple metallic trench coat!" Gaston says.) Other highlights, many fo which were chosen with the help of student interns, include Chanel's 1982 couture green satin pants; a 1925 gold lame, gold lace and orange panne velvet cape; a 2007 black sequined Missoni dress; and a 1958 green silk velvet Balenciaga evening gown.

If you're like me and can't get enough of these historical strolls through the world's closet, then I've got more good news. An exhibit called "Wisconsin Women of Style" will be on display at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, and will walk you through historical fashion movements and the Wisconsin women who wore them.

Mount Mary is also lending some of its costume collection for this exhibit, including a 1926 apricot-colored embroidered silk ensemble created by French designer Jeanne Paquin and worn by Milwaukeean Alcy Sivyer when she was presented to the British Court. The exhibit also includes a black strapless gown designed by New  York designer 
Bruyère and worn by famed Wisconsin cabaret singer Hildegarde.

This exhibit kicks off Jan. 14 and runs through March 29. 

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