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Wisconsin Women of Style Showcases Gowns from Historic Costume Collection

Historic Costume Collection featured in Madison exhibit

MILWAUKEE (January 29, 2014) – While Wisconsin may not be thought of as a fashion hub, prominent women from the state have been at the forefront of style since the beginning of Parisian haute couture. To showcase the state’s fashion roots, Wisconsin Women of Style is on display at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N. Carroll St., Madison, now through March 29. The limited engagement exhibit features spectacular and historically significant gowns and garments from the Mount Mary University Historic Costume Collection and Wisconsin Historical Society. The exhibition tells the story of the dresses and women who wore them.
Featured gowns from the Mount Mary University Historic Costume Collection include a:

•    1934 bronze hammered satin evening gown worn by the acclaimed cabaret singer Hildegarde and made by French couturier Chauvel. Hildegarde grew up in New Holstein and was the “Madonna” of her generation.
•    1937 blue and silver gown that Lillian Day Sivyer, dubbed "The Duchess of Lake Drive" by a Milwaukee society editor, worn to the coronation of King George VI.
•    1967 Jean Louis pink silk crepe and ostrich feather cocktail dress worn by noted Milwaukee art collector Peg Bradley.

A highlight from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s collection is a lush, purple silk and satin velvet gown with a nine-foot train, designed by Charles Frederick Worth, the father of haute couture in Paris. Worth created the gown for Mrs. Frances Fairchild, the wife of Civil War general and Wisconsin governor Lucius Fairchild, for her presentation to the King and Queen of Spain in 1880. Worth was the first male clothing designer to rise to preeminence, setting a precedent that made the future careers of other designers like Yves St. Laurent and Christian Dior possible in the 20th century.   

“Wisconsin has a rich fashion history and over the years women from our state have worked with world renowned fashion designers to create amazing pieces,” says Elizabeth Gaston, Mount Mary University Historic Costume Collection curator. “The exhibit is really a peek inside some of our state’s most fashionable closets.”

On Tuesday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m., the Wisconsin Historical Society will host a dinner and special presentation by Gaston on the stage wardrobe of Lynn Fontanne. Fontanne was a major stage star for 40 years and established herself as "the best dressed actress of Broadway." Learn what the actress did to transform herself from an awkward tomboy to an elegant leading lady and see one of her stunning dresses on display as part of the museum exhibit Wisconsin Women of Style.  The dinner event is $30 per person and reservations must be made by March 3.  

    For more information on the Historic Costume Collection at Mount Mary University, visit http://mtmary.edu/friends/historic-costume-collection/.