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Curry Public Library

What People Wore When

A Display of Costumes from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

About the Exhibit

What People Wore When: A Display of Costumes from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was on display at Curry Public Library from March 29-April 25, 2021. This is a virtual version of the exhibit for those who were unable to attend in person.

Thank you to the many people who made this exhibit possible, in particular Ron Cook for his vision for arts programming in Gold Beach and his support for funding from the Tammis Day Foundation, which granted funds to cover all exhibit costs.

Curator: Jordan Popoff
Costumes: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Publicity and Planning: Rebecca Marcus
Design: Jeremy Skinner
Fabrication: The Curry Public Library staff

On this page:

Curator's Statement

By Jordan Popoff, Curry Public Library

I am an art appreciator who cannot draw a straight line. And I’m a fashion lover who cannot sew a stitch. You might say I enjoy being on the outside looking in. That’s because there is so much to see!

Although I separated fashion from art just now, I don’t think of them as apples and oranges. I believe fashion is the tangerine to art’s citrus. Fashion is wearable art, although most of us would choose not to wear much of it. As in the art world (My child could draw that!) there are critics of haute couture (Who would ever wear that?!). But no one can deny just as much effort and thought go into creating a Dior gown as went into Monet’s Waterlilies.

Not only is fashion an art form, it is also useful to understanding the larger concept of history. It is a visible representation of history: economic, political, technological, and cultural history. Because it is tangible, it cannot be hidden. Thanks to portraits and photographs, it is there for all to see and interpret.

Using fashion as an aid to studying Western history, we are both amused and bemused. We applaud and are outraged. We are delighted and disgusted. Whether fashion interests you or not, it cannot be denied that it is dynamic, vital, and relevant. It is a physical and necessary expression of our time and place. It is key to understanding ourselves and those who came before. Fashion is worth our time to study. Fashion is significant.

A Quick Guide to the Evolution of Western Fashion

Medieval: the birth of fashion+

As fabric technology advanced, clothing became more varied. After years of essentially the same look for everyone (two pieces of cloth sewn together into a tunic), clothing styles not only varied from person to person, male to female, rich to poor, they also changed from year to year. Hence, the birth of a totally new concept: ephemeral fashion.

Renaissance: the birth of the fashionista+

Portraitists could now more accurately detail their subjects, and with the new Age of Exploration, royal households could relatively quickly send their images around the world. The courtly fashions displayed influenced other peoples and other nations. Such luminaries like Queen Elizabeth I became in a very real sense an early fashionista.

Cavalier: the birth of grandeur+

Flourishes and boldness. Drama and exaggeration. Flamboyancy and grandeur. Royalty of this time wanted to assert their power and God-given authority using unmistakable methods, and this included how they dressed.

18th Century: the birth of comfort+

Courts became even more isolated from common people and so the commoners, completely alienated from their leaders, chose a different path. One of common sense: comfort. This was helped along by the widespread introduction of cotton to Western Europe. Men and women both adopted softer lines and less restricted accoutrements.

19th Century: the birth of the designer+

The first widely-recognized haute couturier was Charles Worth, an Englishman, who established his maison in Paris in 1858. Whereas before, a person commissioned clothing from a tailor or a dressmaker, the House of Worth created designs that bore its name. Royalty were no longer fashion authorities; that authority was ceded to designers.

20th Century: the birth of freedom+

For the first time, many people felt comfortable breaking away from designer-driven style and forming their own. Even the conformity-loving Fifties had its beats, hipsters, and teddy boys and girls. Baby-boomers injected youth into the prevailing culture which inspired designers to search all corners of society for fashion ideas.

The Costumes

Click the image to see larger display and caption.

Video Tour