Bonnie Bing

December 12, 2011

Wichita Art Museum showcases Supremes' dresses

If you love fashion, if you loved the Supremes, and maybe you still do, stop in the name of love!

If you love fashion, if you loved the Supremes, and maybe you still do, stop in the name of love!

Stop in at the Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., to get a close-up view of many of the amazing dresses the Supremes wore on stage. The museum guard probably thought I was having some sort of a fit as I oooohed and aaaaahed and circled the exhibit twice. I wanted to look at the exhibit before I interview Mary Wilson on Friday – yes, the Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes.

The dresses in the exhibit were made especially for the trio, and I must say the floor-length gowns they wore to meet the Queen Mother in 1968 are stunning. Mary told Wichita Art Museum executive director Charles Steiner that that particular dress is one of her personal favorites. The dresses weigh 35 pounds each and are heavily beaded with rhinestones, sequins and pearls, which means it’s worth every ounce.

The solid-sequined orange bell bottoms couldn’t be lightweight either. The beading is done in an intricate herringbone pattern. The “bells,” as we called them in high school, were worn with a chiffon blouse and matching jacket when the Supremes performed at the Hollywood Palace on ABC-TV. The jackets, however, were stolen when they did a gig in San Francisco. Boy, that would ruin your day, wouldn’t it.

Since designer Bob Mackie is known for the over-the-top looks he designed for Cher and other stars, it’s not surprising that the black velvet gowns he whipped up for The Supremes have exaggerated Bishop sleeves with faceted “stones” and gilt thread embroidery. Very elegant.

But overall, the colors are bright. The hot pink dresses they wore on the Ed Sullivan Show, the solid beaded print gowns in bright colors and the purple “Fantasy Jumpsuits” are just a few examples. These looked to be inspired by Elvis. Regardless of color or style, the gowns showed off the curvy figures of the singers. One exception: The dresses Mary Wilson wore when she was pregnant.

You’ll be struck how much of this collection would fit perfectly on the fashion runways this year. The black mermaid gown would be the perfect entrance-maker for New Year’s Eve. Go take a look. You’ll be singing along with the Supremes playing in the background. And if you graduated from high school in 1965, you’ll probably know all of the words.

In honor of the Mary Wilson Supremes Collection that will be at WAM through Jan. 12, Mary Wilson will sing and reminisce at the museum’s “A Supreme Holiday Party” Friday at the museum. For more information, call the museum, 316-268-4912.

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