An Exceptional Dior Cotillion Gown

May 22nd, 2015by Guest Blogger Filed under: Collections, Stories

Editor’s note: In honor of prom season, take a close look at one of the Museum’s ball gowns with costume collection intern Corie Azem.

While the House of Dior is most readily identified with the seminal New Look collection, it is also well known for its luxurious gowns. In Chicago, Christian Dior’s garments were first available for purchase through two high-end retailers: Marshall Field’s 28 Shop and the Stanley Korshak boutique. In 1949, one very ambitious and auspicious debutante, Miss Jeanne Brucker, won a one-of-a-kind, custom-made Dior gown to be worn at the inaugural Passavant Cotillion and Christmas Ball.

Portrait of Miss Jeanne Brucker in Dior ball gown
Miss Jeanne Brucker in her Dior gown, 1949

Chicago History Museum, ICHi-74219

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A Look into CHM’s Fur Vault

May 1st, 2015by Guest Blogger Filed under: Collections, Stories

Take a peek inside the Chicago History Museum’s fur vault with costume collections intern Amanda Cacich.

During the past six months, I’ve worked extensively with the objects in the Museum’s fur vault, which is essentially a walk-in refrigerator. The vault holds over 400 artifacts, including furs, ornate tortoiseshell hair combs, and early plastic rain coats. The chilled environment helps preserve the artifacts by slowing down the deterioration of the materials.

I was tasked with completing an inventory of the vault’s contents, which meant several weeks of going through racks of luxurious fur coats owned by some of Chicago’s most affluent women and men. My efforts resulted in updated locations for all of the vault’s items, making them easily accessible for future generations of Museum staff.

While many of the items were made by high-end designers, such as Christian Dior and Fendi, I was captured by the garments with a decidedly Chicagoan provenance, such as two pieces owned and worn by Miss Elizabeth F. Cheney (1902–85). Miss Cheney came from deep Chicago roots. She inherited the Cheney Mansion in Oak Park from uncle and aunt, Andrew and Mary Dole, and founded the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation shortly before her death to support the arts and cultural institutions of Chicagoland, reflecting her lifelong interest in this field.

I have to provide a disclaimer that I, personally, am not particularly fond of the fur industry. But if I had to own a fur coat, it would be one of these. Now about those furs . . .

Picture it: Red-brown mink with silk lining and a shawl collar. This coat looks like it just came off the back of a 1950s Hollywood starlet, fitting for a garment that bears the label of an iconic Chicago institution.

redmink crop

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Some Big Shoulder Pads to Fill

April 22nd, 2015by Petra Slinkard Filed under: Collections, Stories

Costume curator Petra Slinkard reflects on the life of Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone.

I distinctly remember the day when I came across these shoulder pads in costume storage. Costume collection manager Jessica Pushor and I were pulling objects for an upcoming private tour, and they caught my eye. I wanted to pull something that would represent the breadth of the collection and that our group would not expect. You see, it is commonly believed that the Chicago History Museum’s costume collection is one comprised of only high-end clothing or couture. While those items do make up a large portion of our holdings, we are fortunate to own many other types of garments and accessories that reflect the city’s diverse and varied history. The recent passing of Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone represents such an event and serves as a reminder of how fortunate the Museum is to house a variety of objects such as this one, which honors the legacy of a significant Chicagoan.

Shoulder pads worn by Doug Buffone, 1978. Gift of Mr. George Halas. 1978.38a. All photographs by CHM staff.

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Enslaved Women in America

April 21st, 2015by Gary Johnson Filed under: Stories

April 2015: In his Author! Author! blog series, Museum president Gary T. Johnson highlights works that draw on our collection.

West cover

Emily West. Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield (2014).

What sets this study apart is the command of research focusing specifically on women from their lives in Africa through the different chapters of their lives as slaves in North America.

> Read more about and buy this book

> Learn more about abolitionism in Chicago

1919, The Year of Racial Violence

March 31st, 2015by Gary Johnson Filed under: Stories

March 2015: In his Author! Author! blog series, Museum president Gary T. Johnson highlights works that draw on our collection.

Krugler cover

David F. Krugler. 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back. New York: Cambridge University Press (2015).

The centenary of World War I is an opportunity to reflect on its aftermath. David F. Krugler shows how the demobilization of black troops, who had served in war “to make the world safe for democracy,” returned to a homeland that frustrated their aspirations. Violence broke out in many places not only in the South, but in northern cities, such as Chicago and Gary, Indiana, that had been destinations for the Great Migration. There is detailed research from many locations, allowing the author to draw conclusions about what otherwise might be seen as primarily local events.

> Read an excerpt from 1919, The Year of Racial Violence

> Discover more about African Americans in Chicago

> Find out more about World War I’s impact on Chicago