Fiorucci: A Splash of Fun at Water Tower

June 25th, 2015by Petra Slinkard Filed under: Collections, Exhibitions

In honor of Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile®, the Museum blog will publish a series of posts highlighting the stores, garments, designers, donors, and urban developments featured in the exhibition.

Water Tower Place, a seven-story, 758,000 square-foot vertical mall, opened its doors on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile in October 1975. At the time, it was almost completely vacant with the exception of its anchor stores, Marshall Field & Company and Lord & Taylor. However, due to its almost immediate success and prominent location on North Michigan Avenue, the mall’s retail spaces were completely leased by 1976.

Interior of Water Tower Place
Interior of the Atrium Mall at Water Tower Place, c. 1976. ICHi-39590

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Flickering Empire

June 1st, 2015by Gary Johnson Filed under: Stories

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

Flickering Empire - Cover.indd

Michael Glover Smith and Adam Selzer. Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry. Chichester, West Sussex: Wallflower Press (2015).

The problem with many “missing-chapter-in-history” books is that they omit the wider context, and the reader is left wondering about the impact of the new information. The neglected story here is the brief but colorful story of Chicago as America’s capital, but the authors successfully set this story within the arc of film history. The story begins with Thomas Edison, continues through the World’s Columbian Exposition, moves on to Chicago-based companies, including Essanay Studios and Selig Polyscope Company, and movie stars from the Chicago days, such as Charlie Chaplin—and then addresses the move to Hollywood. The authors answer the question, “Why Chicago?” by setting the film story in the context of Chicago history.

> Read more about Flickering Empire and Michael Glover Smith’s work

> Discover more about Flickering Empire and Adam Selzer’s work

> Learn more about the Chicago film industry


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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