How did you become a fashion curator?
I studied fashion design in Chicago for my undergraduate degree, which required an internship. Through my studies, I attended a tour in the fashion collection at the Chicago History Museum, loved it, and was accepted as an intern. I eventually completed my BA and my internship, but continued volunteering. As a result, I was hired as the collection manager for the Chicago History Museum’s 50,000-piece collection of historic clothing and textiles. I was then curator from 2006 – 2011, before returning to school for an MA in the History & Culture of Fashion at London College of Fashion. I am now curator of fashion & decorative arts at the Museum of London since 2013.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Exciting people about history through what we wear. The Museum of London’s dress & textiles collection is a treasure trove of material from London’s past. It is extremely rewarding to be able to explore this collection and find compelling stories to tell and engage people. This is why I am so fond of social media as, for years, I tried to figure out a way of sharing the ‘a-ha’ moments I experience on a daily basis. I find clues about the garments and their wearers sometimes when a pocket is opened, or the lining of a sleeve is revealed. There are many artefacts in storage in museums and I think digital interpretation is the way forward for sharing more of these collections with the world.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve had with historic clothing?
When I first got my job working in museums, I was like a little kid in the candy shop and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Chicago History Museum’s 50,000-piece collection. One day, I found a box marked ‘Paul Poiret’, one of the most influential fashion designers in the early 20th century. Like most students of fashion history, I studied Paul Poiret in school and was shocked, when I opened the box, to find nothing less than Poiret’s most celebrated design, the ‘sorbet’ dress. He is considered the ‘father of modern fashion' and known for designing clothing to be worn without corsets, and here I was, in the store of a great museum, looking at the sorbet! I knew I was in the right place.
How have the artefacts for Redressing Pleasure been selected?
We’ve selected artefacts from the dress & textiles and decorative arts collections that date from the mid-18th to mid-19th century - the heyday of the Pleasure Gardens in the UK. Within that date range, we wanted to further emphasise the entertaining atmosphere of the gardens by selecting artefacts that are made of white, cream or tan fabrics and will add splashes of colour through accessories.
What is your favourite artefact of Redressing Pleasure?
The c.1855 archeress. I was delighted to find this artefact in the Museum of London collection and have wanted to put it on exhibition for a while. It was donated to the museum in 1954, and the key component is the archery belt of green leather, made in London by Feltham & Company’s Archery and Croquet Warehouse, located on Aldersgate Street. Attached to the belt is a green leather quiver, a holder filled with beeswax, a notebook for keeping score and a target for recording where each arrow landed. The belt was worn with a white cotton jacket.
Donate now to help us redress pleasure and conserve an important part of London's fashion history.