January 18 OPENING DAY Form & Function of Fashion: The Way We Wore

Kelley House Winter “Fashion” Exhibit Opens Friday, January 18

            What was hanging in the closets of Coast residents before there were polyester leisure suits? Starting January 18, 2019, Kelley House Museum will explore that question with its new exhibit featuring the fabrics, the forms, and the function of clothing worn by the people of Mendocino during the period 1860 to 1960.

            Curated from the museum’s extensive collection of period photographs and archival clothing and with special items loaned by community members, visitors will see how clothing has evolved for men and women, children and youth, workers and sporting teams in this 100-year review. From bustles and corsets, to jeans and tees, the pictures reveal our history in the way we dressed.

            Lovely custom-made dresses more than one-hundred years old will be on display along with a collection of folding fans and evening purses. Of interest to anyone who appreciates craftsmanship, the fine stitches, handmade lace and buttons, and exquisite beadwork from these earlier times are a testament to their longevity. Menswear will include woodsmen pocket watches and military hats and coats from both World Wars.

            Graduation photos of Mendocino High School students from the 1890s show young women and men dressed in elegant lace gowns and three-piece suits with high-collared shirts. With each succeeding decade, clothes became progressively looser and more casual. Children, too, were dressed far differently in the late 1800s than those of today. For young boys, long hair was common, as were dresses and large hats.

            If you’ve ever wondered where linen comes from, you’ll be surprised to see the skeins of flax fibers that look and feel like long blonde hair, part of a display of textile materials on loan from the fiber education library of Pacific Textile Arts in Fort Bragg. Touch silkworm cocoons, bolls of cotton, and felted wool that illustrate the story of fabric in use for thousands of years. The Production Alliance of Performing Arts also contributed articles of vintage clothing to the exhibit.

            Shoe-making will be demonstrated on February 10 at 4:00 pm during “Sunday Afternoon With the Cobbler.” Jason Clapp, owner of Mendocino Custom Shoes and his colleague Paul Schulman will demonstrate their craft. Stop by and see footwear constructed using traditional shoemaker techniques. Old maps of Mendocino indicate the historic locations of these indispensable shops along Main, Ukiah and Lansing Streets.

            So put on your high-heeled sneakers and slap on a hat. Let the Kelley House Museum give you a new perspective on the perennial question – what should I wear today? “Form & Function of Fashion: the Way We Wore” runs through Monday, March 18, 2019. Museum hours are 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Fridays through Mondays. Admission is by suggested donation of $5.

Kelley House members are invited to attend the Exhibit Preview Party on Thursday, January 17, from 4:30-6:00 p.m.. New members are always welcome! For more information, please visit kelleyhousemuseum.org.

Volunteer Eva Laflamme examines a silk-lined peach paisley
wool challis coat, with quilted gray-green cuffs and collar

Exquisite silver seed beadwork on Jennie Blair’s ballgown,
designed by Jeanne Hallee, 8 Rue Ville L’Eveque, Paris.  c.1887