Fashioning San Francisco

Photograph by Gary Sexton

On recent a trip to the Bay Area, my cousin and I visited the current fashion exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum called “Fashioning San Francisco.”  It had an interesting organizational premise—all clothes were worn by San Franciscans themselves or purchased by upscale department store to display the latest styles.  They were donated to the museum by the owners or collectors.  It revealed wealthy society women’s love of couture fashion starting in about 1905 and stretching up to the new millennium.

French design houses are the best represented, beginning with Callot Soeurs and working up to Christian Lacroix and Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld.  There are many classics from the mid-century, especially by Dior.  By the end of the century the perspective widens to other Europeans, Asians, and even a few Americans.  Some of the names, like Frederick Gibson Bayh, who used antique Asian textiles and designed for the high end store Gumps, were new to me.

Dress by Yojhi Yamamoto, photos by Gary Sexton

My favorite dress was the one above by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto.  The beautiful red shibori work (an elaborate tie dye technique) was three dimensional.

The most innovative part of the exhibit was an augmented reality installation that let you “try on” three of the designs digitally.  The software adjusted the dress to your body shape and arm movements.  The thinnest, widest, shortest, and tallest visitors could all see themselves in couture dresses and send copies to their phones.  You see me below in a velvet dress by Valentino.  I don’t think Vogue will be calling soon.

The exhibit lasts until August 11. The museum building itself and the Golden Gate Park setting alone are worth a visit.  If you want a detailed view of many of the dresses, take a look at couture expert Claire Shaeffer’s YouTube video.

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2 Responses to Fashioning San Francisco

  1. Bob Moeller says:

    You look like you’re ready to vogue down the runway to me!

  2. Sue Woods says:

    Thank you for this! We’re putting it on our bucket list of things to do while in San Francisco for the 2024 ASG National Conference.

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