Suiting Ourselves 1890 to 1990

Suiting Ourselves 1890 to 1990

Monday, October 24, 2011 to Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An exhibition tailored to showcase men's and women's suits from the department's Historic Costume Collection.

The classic power uniform, the suit, will be the subject of an exhibition “Suiting Ourselves” that opens at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery October 24th and runs through December 21, 2011. A group of Lincoln professionals in retail buying, selling, and marketing of suits gather to discuss the social and economic impact of the suit in the last quarter of the 20th century.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Rita Kean will moderate a panel discussion Thursday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m. addressing suits and the Lincoln retail environment featuring Ben Simon’s, Hovland Swanson and Joffe’s Too. Fran Fiala, Lincoln retailer; Lisa Warren, former suit buyer for Younker’s Corporate headquarters; and Rob Simon, former Lincoln retailer and current UNL professor will sit on the panel, in room 11 of the Human Sciences Building on the University of Nebraska East Campus at the College of Education and Human Sciences. Refreshments and informal modeling by Textiles Clothing and Design students will follow at 8:00 p.m. Students will feature original designs stemming from repurposed suits and wool fabric.

Dr. Barbara Trout, curator of the exhibition, has identified a grouping of women’s and men’s suits from the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design’s historic costume collection. The 35 suits that span the years 1890 to 1990 will become a visual narrative to explain the evolution of this iconic form of dress that people choose to wear to put their best foot forward. The exhibition depicts how over the past 100 years the suit has functioned as a garment to exercise, travel, attend the theatre, conduct business, and wear to the interview.

An exceptional grouping of women’s suits from the World War I period will be a feature of the exhibition, as well as a set of hand tailored suits from Savile Row in England. Donors from across Nebraska and beyond have contributed vital examples of suiting from designers such as Coco Chanel, Bonnie Cashin, Norman Norell, Adele Simpson, Pierre Cardin, and Hattie Carnegie.  These items were produced with the best fabrics and are pure examples of quality tailoring.  Viewers will appreciate details that have all but vanished from today’s normal attire, such as bound button holes, tailor basted lapels, welt pockets and sculpted peplums. 

Color evolution within the suit movement will also be evident in the exhibition. Post war suits of the 1950s with subdued tones give way to bright crimsons, then to the pastels of the 1960s and back to grey in the 1970s. Many of the designer garments originated from the rich retail heritage of Lincoln, Omaha, and surrounding areas. The opening event on October 27th will be a celebration of the suit.

 The Hillestad Gallery is part of the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences. The gallery is on the second floor of the Human Sciences Building on East Campus, on 35th Street north of East Campus Loop (map at 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 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.

ChanelSuit-210web.jpg-SuitingOurselves ChanelSuit

Chanel suit gift of Mrs. Marjorie Woods.

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Bonnie Cashin suit courtesy of Mrs. Marilyn Forke.


Maroon Wool Suit, c. 1962.