Monday, October 26, 2009

Peabody-Essex Museum's Rare Bird of Fashion

The Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts continues to amaze, inspire and transform.

From it’s atmospheric and modern architecture that houses treasure from the days of tall ships to cutting edge contemporary art from India, and a centuries old Chinese house rebuilt inside the museum, there is much to explore here. For those not lucky enough to make the drive, the PEM's award winning website allows a delicious peak into the wonders housed here.

As a longtime dealer and lover of ethnographic textiles, costume and adornment, I was delighted to see that the inspiring show Rara Avis from the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute has taken wing and arrived in New England as Iris Apfel, Rare Bird of Fashion.

Iris Apfel is a free thinking, boldly creative, individualist that adores ethnic adornment and costume, haute couture and quirky tag sale finds and combines them in a distinctive way that you may not personally embrace but cannot ignore! Nor can you help gleefully smiling…Lady GaGa eat your heart out…

In the early 1950s Apfel and husband Carl began a business called Old World Weavers.They specialized in weaving exact reproductions of antique-period fabric and found a ready audience for upscale interior décor, including extensive work for the White House, Metropolitan Museum and others.

In her late 80’s, she is being embraced for the original fashion icon that she became by simply being herself and for the influence she has had in the professional worlds of fashion and interior décor.

When asked several years ago “Which outfits have you put together that truly reflect your style?” Iris Apfel easily recited a few eclectic ensembles…
”A cowhide apron worn with a black satin jumpsuit. Antique Georgian jewelry mixed with flea market bangles and beads.. A canvas dance skirt from a Southwest pueblo edged in tinkling tin bells worn with different couture jackets. A silver-fox coat belted with a beaded African wall hanging, and red woolen boots with embroidered trim from Etro.”

As the exhibit opened at PEM she was posed with the question, “How does fashion give you courage?”
Iris Apfel, now 88 and vibrant as ever, replied,
“Dress gives you the opportunity to express yourself: who you are, who you think you are or who you want to be. So, take advantage of it. I hope that Rare Bird of Fashion will encourage you to be a bit creative, a bit daring and have more than a bit of fun.”

This sense of joyful exuberance and rakish good humor is infectious and if you can’t make it in to the show right away, go to the museum website and click on the interactive paperdolls that permit the latent fashionista in you to dress the mannequins! What fun.

Also worth the trip is Trash Menagerie.

Whimsical and fantastic animal sculptures formed of thrown away packaging are the focus here.Wonderful interactive videos on the website for this as well! Don’t miss Joshua Harris’inflatable trash bag bears and other animals brought to life by NYC subway trains swishing by underneath them !

All of this can not help but put a creative spin on your day!

A gentle reminder to lighten up and let your inner child come out and play!
Happy Halloween!

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