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Museum of Arts and Culture


Dress Code at the MAC

A reflection of my own life?

Dress Code is a small but thoughtfully curated and visually beautiful display of over 200 years of women's clothing, and the relationship of that clothing to changing women's roles, on display through April 30, 2011 at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (the MAC) in Spokane. Issues of female beauty, personal identity, political power, and societal shifts are illustrated by clothing from the MAC's permanent collection.

Although the clothing itself is just the medium of the message, there are some splendid items on display, including an Empire-style dress worn to George Washington's inaugural celebration.

French silk brocade dress, remade in 1789 from a 1730 wedding dress imported from Paris

Dresses dating from ca. 1919 (the threshold of modernity) and 1924 (Egyptian influence)

Detail from a custom-made party dress, ca. 1914

Each of the items is described on panels, including interesting details about local women, stores, manufacturers and activities. The historic photos are a real highlight for me, bringing the clothing to life. There is interactivity, including the ability to try on a corset, and open up the doors of a "Peep Show" to reveal the undergarments used to shape fashionable women in 1890, 1920 and 2010.

Also at the museum right now is the exhibit Women's Votes, Women's Voices, illustrating with artifacts, interactive kiosks and oral histories, Washington women's campaign for suffrage. Washington was important in the national suffrage movement, being the 5th state to grant women the vote. Between Dress Code and Women's Votes, Women's Voices there is a Wall of Influential Women of the state, including clothing worn by these women.

I have always liked to ponder the meaning of what I wear, and I found it fascinating to experience the time line of women's history as seen through clothing.

Dress and suit dating from 1914

Dresses from 1932 to 1950...shaped by national emergencies