I should have known better. My very opinionated acquaintance and I know we can’t talk about politics or religion, but who would have thought the subject of art would cause problems? It started with me stating that photography is indeed art. She disagreed then said, “I bet you think fashion is art.”
Dang right I do. Not all fashion, of course, but fashion design is art and certainly when something is a couture creation, beautifully made and impeccably detailed, it is a piece of art.
Thankfully, this is one of those times I can prove my point to any doubters. Go to the Wichita Center for the Arts and see the exhibition of exquisite dresses that belonged to Henrietta Holmes. Henrietta who? you ask. Well, for starters, she lived in the house that Frank Lloyd Wright built that is now the Frank Lloyd Wright Allen House Museum. Her father, Henry J. Allen, was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace Charles Curtis, the senator from Kansas who had been elected vice president on Herbert Hoover’s ticket.
When they moved to Washington, D.C., Henrietta – with her chic, short hairstyle, her slim figure, her good looks and her wonderful taste in fashion – was a big hit. In the social whirl of the capital, she met Julius Holmes, a diplomat who was from Lawrence. They were married in 1932.
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In her role as a diplomat’s wife, she had many important events to attend all over the world, and she dressed the part. Some of the couture fashions she wore were provided for the exhibit by Henrietta’s cousin, Mary Scott Jarvis of Winfield. She was the lucky person who got Henrietta’s hand-me-downs. Now that’s a cousin to have, especially since Henrietta thought wearing a gown more than three times in public was in bad taste.
Probably my favorite gown on display is the dark teal chiffon with beautiful gold belt. The front wrap panel is draped. Weights were placed strategically in the gown so the draping remains perfect to this day. Ben Reig of New York was the designer. The peach dress with intricate net insets, the black gown with colorful flower appliques, and the periwinkle blue gown Henrietta wore as a wedding gown, and later Mary also did, all had to be a dream to wear. Look at the design and the construction of these gowns, and I bet you’ll agree they are pieces of art.
While you’re at the Center, take in Fiber Directions 2015, a nationally juried exhibition featuring works of 63 contemporary fiber artists.
Both exhibits prove my point. Art takes on many mediums. And fabric, needle and thread in the hands of a creative person can result in art. So there.
Reach Bonnie Bing at email@example.com.