Drawn to Fashion: the illustrations of Mary Mitchell

Drawn to Fashion: the illustrations of Mary Mitchell

Monday, October 22, 2012 to Friday, November 30, 2012

The gallery will be open Friday, November 2 for First Friday from 5:00-7:00 pm.  The Friends of the Gallery will host this First Friday open evening. 

The Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design announces the dedication of the Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio in conjunction with the exhibition Drawn to Fashion: The Illustrations of Mary Mitchell. The public is invited to view the work of this Omaha fashion illustrator between October 22 and November 30, 2012. The gallery will be open the first Friday in November from 5:00-7:00 pm in addition to regular week-day hours. Professors Michael James and Barbara Trout co-curated the exhibition. Garments from the historic costume collection, models for select illustrations, will also be featured in the exhibition.

Born to Greek immigrant parents in Buffalo, New York, Mary Mitchell first showed a penchant for art making in high school, where her talents were nurtured by the mentorship of her art teacher and encouraged by early success in national art competitions.  An unexpected bequest from Mary’s late mother made it possible for her to attend the Albright Art School, affiliated with the University of Buffalo, from which she graduated with a degree in fashion illustration. At the Flint & Kent department store in Buffalo, Mary’s career as a professional fashion illustrator was launched.

After Mary met Kearney, Nebraska native and Georgetown Law School graduate John Mitchell, also of Greek descent, a long-distance courtship ensued and the couple married in 1951, settling in Kearney. Mary took classes at Kearney State Teachers College, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and this association led to her teaching courses in their art department.

In 1968 the Mitchells moved to Omaha and Mary returned to fashion illustration full time, working for the Nebraska Clothing Company for what she described as “four fabulous years.” After striking out on her own as a freelance illustrator, Mary continued to refine her fashion illustration skills with clients including Topp’s, Goldstein Chapman, Herzberg’s, Zoob’s, Parsow’s and Wolf Brothers. Her career flourished during a period when fashion illustration's role was critical to successful commerce in everything from haute couture to ready-to-wear, and when Omaha’s fashion merchants helped to define the meaning of style in the heartland.

In the 1960s and 70s, pages of the fashion press were filled with drawn images that captured the energy of the industry at its peak. That period of dynamic social and cultural change impacted fashion but was in turn affected by it. This is one of the critical dimensions of fashion in general: it is inseparable from the age that spawns it, and it serves inevitably as a barometer of that age’s tendencies and unique character. In "Drawn to Fashion: the Illustrations of Mary Mitchell", the post-War period of American affluence and exceptionalism comes convincingly to life.

The Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design is dedicated to a fashion illustrator that celebrated designer Oscar de la Renta called “a true artist, elegant and masterful.” It also honors the generosity of both Mary and John Mitchell who, through the University of Nebraska Foundation, endowed the Mary Mitchell Fashion Illustration Scholarship Fund and the Mary Mitchell Fashion Excellence Fund, and helped to underwrite the costs of the 2012 renovation of this primary apparel studio. Just as Mary’s mother’s gift contributed to her education and to what Mary describes as a “rich and fulfilling” career, so the Mitchells’ gifts will, for generations of students to come, help them to successfully pursue and to ultimately realize their professional dreams.

 Mitchell-C-6-250web.jpg-Mitchell-C6-250web           Mitchell-M-1-250web.jpg-MitchellM1-250web                        Mitchell-W-35-250web.jpg-Mitchell35-250web             

©Mary Mitchell

The Hillestad Gallery is part of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Home Economics Building on East Campus, on 35th Street north of East Campus Loop (map at http://go.unl.edu/j5v). Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment. Admission is free. Guest parking is available near the building and metered stalls are located in the Nebraska East Union lot. For more information, call (402) 472-2911 or visit http://textilegallery.unl.edu.  School and community groups are welcome. Please call in advance to arrange a tour or download the tour request form from the gallery webpage. A limited amount of funding is available for underwriting bus or van expenses to bring in student groups.