For Immediate Release
SEATTLE’S MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY PRESENTS SEATTLE STYLE: FASHION/FUNCTION
Seattle, WA - This spring Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) presents Seattle Style: Fashion/Function featuring garments and accessories from the museum’s collection, influenced by popular culture and revealing captivating stories about the city’s sartorial spirit.
Presented by Nordstrom, this exciting exhibit, on view at MOHAI from May 4 - Oct. 14, 2019 will highlight how elegance and practicality co-existed and converged in Seattle wardrobes, providing new insights into local clothing, ranging from couture to grunge and street fashion. Alone, few of these ingredients are unique to Seattle. But woven together, a distinct local story emerges. No single style defines this region. Instead, when we look at the clothing made and worn here, enduring themes emerge: influences of the weather, ambition, a casual nature, and a spirit of people forging a new path.
“I am delighted the Museum of History & Industry is presenting this stunning collection as we share a fascinating and influential period in Seattle fashion history.” said MOHAI’s Executive Director Leonard Garfield.
Curated by MOHAI’s Collection Specialist for Costumes and Textiles Clara Berg, the exhibit explores the distinct sensibility of Seattle fashion and its sense of beauty embodied in clothing. Bringing together rarely seen garments and accessories from the mid-1800s to today, the exhibit also includes three “Sewn in Seattle” videos featuring brands like Filson, and historical footage from fashion shows in the city.
“Seattle has a rich history of clothing makers and style leaders,” said Berg. “Outdoor gear, casualwear, grunge - are connected to key parts of our history and had a national and international impact. There are many stories of high fashion here as well - people who wore it, stories that imported it, and designers who made it. My hope is that after visiting the exhibit our guests walk away thinking “Wow! I had no idea!”
The exhibit is structured into a combination of thematic sections:
The first thematic section, Nature and Place, explores the influence of the natural surroundings. Dressing for our environment is a way of life in Seattle. Rain falls 150 days per year on average, and outdoor adventure always feels steps away. Water surrounds Seattle on the east and west. Snowcapped mountains are within sight of downtown, and green spaces can be found throughout the city. Here, people balance a city lifestyle with an outdoor one.
Seattle’s clothing - items made or worn here - demonstrates the influences of the natural surroundings. From the hardiest of gear to an elegant evening coat, materials and designs show a combination of functional and stylish elements. Seattle’s passion for blending weather-tested pieces with visual impact continues with traditional materials, as well as new ones like waxed cotton, Gore-Tex, and vinyl.
The second section is Growth and Aspiration. When Seattle was a frontier town - little more than wood structures and muddy streets - pioneer residents imagined its future as a sophisticated, global city. The first name for the settlement was even “New York Alki”, alki meaning “by and by” or “in the future” in local trade language of Chinook Jargon. Becoming a city has meant times of rapid growth and huge change - the two seem to have become part of Seattle’s DNA.
Since it’s earliest days, Seattle has had a connection to fashion. As it started to grow into a bustling city, some Seattleites looked to fashion - the presence of and access to it - as a measure of cosmopolitan success. Especially in the first half of the 20th century, it was commonly understood that the most fashionable items came from afar.
Thanks in part to giants like Microsoft and Amazon, the 21st-century tech boom is pushing Seattle’s population to new limits. This kind of growth shapes the population and its needs, which in turn influence local stores and companies by drawing a population of talent.
In the next section, Northwest Casual is considered. It is no secret that when it comes to style, Seattle leans casual. It started in the days when harsh frontier life led to loosened norms and has endured as a hallmark of a West Coast style of living. After the late 1960's, the idea that fashion is an indication of success started to fade and for some, fashion was frivolous. A local preference for the informal paved the way for Seattle’s casualwear industry to thrive in the late 20th century. The city’s industry has seen ups and downs, but a love of casual holds steady.
The definition of what clothes are considered acceptable for day-to-day wear changes over time. Like elsewhere on the West Coast, Seattle has been at the forefront of an increasingly casual style of American dress.
As the demand for informal clothing grew in the mid-century, a distinct network of Seattle garment factories grew too. And later in the century, it was Seattle’s turn to export some of the hottest trends of the day. Local brands boomed. But this later wave of companies made clothes exclusively overseas. Today, companies remain, though the presence of garment factories has noticeably faded.
Designs originally intended for sports or at-home wear have gradually become acceptable for other occasions. As MOHAI’s collection shows, materials and cuts reflect intended use, but style is never forgotten.
The final section focuses on Innovators and Rule Breakers. Throughout Seattle’s clothing history, people have recognized needs and created solutions for themselves and others. Some solutions have been inspired by technical needs, others by an artistic vision that counters the city’s casual norms, and others by a creator’s beliefs or identities. After all, what people wear can be key to their self-expression.
These garments combined all of Seattle’s enduring clothing influences- natural surroundings, aspiration for something greater, and affinity for the informal - together with an innovative and rule-breaking spirit. In every case, they contribute to the variety and diversity found in Seattle’s styles. This section includes designers with a glamorous vision that defies Seattle’s informal attitude with gowns from Luly Yang, Mark Mitchell, and Howard Blair.
Sometimes, groups or individuals have a belief or identify not represented in mainstream clothing styles and so create something that does. The resulting garments reveal and celebrate creativity, ingenuity, and diversity of the individuals who make up the region.
There is no fashion moment more associated with Seattle than grunge. The look had ingredients of pink style, local workwear, gender-flexibility, and chilly weather practicality, all rolled together with an anti-establishment attitude. Thrift stores were the go-to place for the grunge look.
Thrift shopping saved money, but it was also a way to reject flashy 1980s mainstream fashion. Plaid flannels- the workwear of Pacific Northwest timber workers - and worn jeans were plentiful. To keep warm, long johns were added as a visible layer. Initially the style of losers and misfits, the grunge look ended up becoming the height of cool.
For outdoor adventurers keenly aware that the right clothing can be a lifeline to fashion devotees going great lengths to bring chic treasures back home, to those who want to change narratives around what we wear, Seattleites care deeply about fashion. Grunge may be the style most associated with Seattle, but its ingredients - utilitarian needs, casual dressing, and a non-conformist attitude - resonate in many Seattle clothing stories before and since.
Seattle Style: Fashion/Function exhibit is organized by Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry and presented by Nordstrom. The exhibit is accompanied by a companion book, written by Clara Berg, with a forward by internationally known Seattle-based fashion designer Luly Yang.
The exhibit will also include a variety of fashion related programming and events including an family-friendly opening day celebration on May 4th, a discussion on ethical fashion moderated by Sydney Mintle of Gossip & Glamour on May 8, monthly Behind the Seams programming led by Clara Berg, and a Seattle Style Month happening city-wide in September.
Ethical Fashion: Rethinking the Future of an Industry - May 8 at 7 p.m.
Behind the Seams: High Fashion Favorites - May 11 - 11 a.m. , 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Gossip & Glamour Style Summit - May 14 Tickets on sale now
INTRINSIC: SPU Student Designer Fashion Show - May 17 at 7 p.m.
(Re)Fashion: Clothing Repair Fair & Workshop - June 1 at 11 a.m.
Behind the Seams: Fashioning the Ideal Body - June 22 at 11 am. , 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Cocktails & Clothing: Designing Sustainable Fashion - June 26 at 7 p.m.