Women for Women: Female Fashion Designers

August 24 – December 18, 2015

Curated by Janet Fitzpatrick and Becky Lensch

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Vera Wang. Stella McCartney. Laura Ashley. Diane Von Furstenberg. Garments from celebrity and lesser-known female fashion designers are on display in the Mary Alice Gallery in conjunction with CPAM’s (Re)discovering S(h)elves exhibit. Similar to the way women artists work in paint, paper, fiber, clay, and glass, female fashion designers define themselves using cloth. Women designers express their laura_ashley_full_view_cropped_55cde8e8f35b3aesthetic sensibilities through the selection of the colors, lines, shapes, and textures incorporated into the silhouettes they create. In addition to the visual and textural appeal, designers consider the needs and desires of their consumers in order to provide benefits that satisfy physical requirements and societal expectations. These benefits include protection from inclement weather, practical designs for the workplace, structural components allowing for comfort and fit in active and leisure wear, as well as the glitz and glamour desired for special occasions. Apparel designed by women for women reflects the economic, political, and cultural values of their times.

Do female fashion designers understand what is required of women’s apparel better than men? Women designers do have the advantage of acting as their own fit models and critics, but that’s not always enough to ensure success. While many women designers built recognizable brands around their names, other designers haven’t always received the same recognition as their male counterparts. Female designers, patternmakers, stylists, and merchandisers were instrumental in building the ready-to-wear industry, but often remained unknown. Employed by large apparel manufacturers, these women labored without receiving individual credit for their work. While designers like Vera Wang achieved celebrity status due to their fashion lines, other equally important designers including Jo Copeland, Claire McCardell, Tina Leser, and Pauline Trigère are lesser-known to the public. In an attempt to bring these and other names to the forefront, the work of many of the female fashion designers represented in the TCM collection is celebrated in this exhibit.