Normally high-fashion design conjures up images of Parisian catwalks, the streets of New York City, and the station of the Harajuku district of Tokyo. But a current exhibit at the Chicago History Museum wants to expose yet another side of Chicago: fashion capital. Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum is currently running through July 26, 2009.
The exhibit is a highlight of fashion specific to Chicago from the 1860’s through 2004. Cool fact: The Chicago History Museum has one of the largest and oldest costume and garment collections in the world. Each article on display not only is intended to present as an example of truest fashion, but also to represent historical significance within each piece. Curator of Costumes Timothy Long stresses the Windy City’s presence in the collection. “It is the connection to Chicago–that is the number one importance to the costume collection [and] to the museum as a whole,” he says. Every article featured is also part of the museums permanent collection.
A collection of Chicago fashion since the 1860’s made me wonder if there would be butcher’s attire or mob boss suits included, given Chicago’s notorious reputation as Hog Butcher to the World, Gangland, and the Second City. These ideas about Chicago not being a ‘major’ fashion city still exist today. But the ladies of the last 150 years are not too different from the ladies of today in our love of glamour and garments as self expression and luxury. And the high-society women of Chicago have always had the money and taste for couture–sometimes choosing to let these pieces speak for the sophistication of Chicago when Midwestern reputation precedes it.