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As an effort to create a great bonding experience, I took my style team on a pseudo field trip to the Charleston Museum to view the Charleston Couture exhibit. Of course I also gave them an assignment to write a review of what they saw. Little did I know it would actually turn into a true class trip scenario which ended with them playing dress up in fashions from centuries past.
Here we have Janae, who channels Audrey Hepburn daily, Loren, the Jersey girl, and Angelica, the Zen Boho princess, coming from three very different fashion aesthetics, sharing their impression of Charleston Couture.
Visiting the Charleston Couture exhibit at the Charleston Museum evoked wishes of grandeur and luxury in everyday living and dress. The satins, the velvets, the gloves- the clothing dripped sophistication and style. Seeing such fine clothing makes me wonder how society came to dress the way we presently do. Baggy jeans, sloppy t-shirts, and yoga pants are the norm today, and this exhibit reconfirmed my thoughts that it shouldn’t be. Also, it was interesting to see elements of current trends in the styles of older eras. The '20s era black beaded dress is something we would see on the runways of New York or Paris Fashion Week with the latest clothing being heavily influenced by The Great Gatsby. Everything does truly come full circle. I’m waiting for hoop skirts to come back in.
Seeing this exhibit also made me feel more connected to Charleston. We live in a city that is so rich in history with civil war sights and old stone prisons. It is often that you see history but very rarely do I feel it. Having the privilege to see a dress worn by a member of the Middleton family and a suit by a Charleston diplomat is a very special thing indeed. I can now perfectly picture a Charleston woman walking down Broad Street in a white lace gown, little satin shoes, and holding an parasol to shield her from the hot, Southern sun. The Charleston Couture exhibit is a perfect mixture of fashion, history, and locality.
Walking through the Exhibit was a very unique experience and enhanced my understanding of the true evolution and progression of the fashion industry. Fashion has been around for such a long time and is often mistaken as constantly being about what's new, fresh and trendy. When in reality, the saying what was old is new comes to life as I experienced here. From the sequin bolero to the shoes, these items are recreated for today’s generation and people wear them without knowing or understanding their roots. It brings about a new perspective recognizing trends, fabrics, and styles while viewing these items of the past. I found the concept of tracing these couture pieces back to their origin extremely fascinating. It reflects on the true timelessness of style. These garments have been worn by significant people of the past and yet remain alive and well appreciated.
Looking through this collection of over 50 fine garments from the 1770s to the 1970s was both entertaining and inspiring. While snapping photos of the finely crafted vintage items I couldn’t help but think of the haphazardly stitched cotton shirts and blouses hanging in my closet, unlikely to withstand the test of time (or my washing machine). I can recall many a time throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine only to discover that my rinse-and-spin cycle has destroyed my mass-produced, and short-lived items. This line of thought brought me to the advice that my boss, Style Director, friend and fashion mentor is always telling me: “Shop your local designers!” While Ayoka is full of lifestyle advice and quotables, this little gem of wisdom was at the forefront of my mind as I looked at the delicately stitched beads decorating the silk gowns from decades past. After all, wouldn’t it be great to have our decade represented in the vintage stores and couture exhibits of the future?
The Charleston Couture exhibit runs through November 4th. Visit the Charleston Museum website for more information.