Located on Level T of the Human Ecology Building
Eye catching coats, strips of cloth, patterned brocades, and soft embroidery are but some of the fashion-related items featured in this case. Titled “The Troupers,” each garment comes from a different place and time, yet follow suit in similar fashion by adorning and protecting the body, making a political statement, and flashing the world in green. They fiercely tell individual and collective histories, positing tradition and new ideas in both bygone and contemporary ways.
Look G: Evening coat, green and gold brocade
Gift of May Daniels
The opera coat is a loose-fitting coverup that maximizes its opulence through a metallic Baroque-style brocade exterior and velvet lining. The coat was paired with a handbag containing matching opera-glasses. The green of the garment and accessories, in combination with gold, symbolizes wealth in dramatically visual ways.
Look H: Embroidered Chinese skirt
Unknown designer, China
Gift of Helen West Pynn
Donated by Helen West Pynn, this long, green silk skirt was purchased by Pynn’s grandparents in China in the early 1900s. It may have been made following the Revolution of 1911, as the fall of the Qing dynasty catalyzed a wave of silk craftsmanship. During this time, a fiber-related class distinction emerged: silk was used to identify the elite, while hemp cloth was used to identify commoners. The skirt’s embroidery, cut, and style suggest it was created after the revolution: embroidery became one of the most prominent identifiers of wealth, as well as structure and pleats, as opposed to loose-fitting cotton garments. The skirt has front and back panels lined with decorative, black piping, separating the large pleats that fall the cotton waistband. The green color used was an auspicial symbol in the Chinese culture; the blue color symbolized Spring and positivity, which may indicate that this skirt was worn in a warmer season, given the light-weight material. Though the inner lining of the skirt is tattered as a result of silk shatter, the surface embroidery is in excellent condition. The front panel, in particular, is heavily embroidered with flowers, butterflies or moths, phoenixes, and melons that are rendered utilizing satin stitch. One of the most pervasive eye-catching motifs on the front panel is a pinkish-orange flower, resembling the lotus flower, which is one of the most important symbols in the Chinese culture. The intricate image of a flower growing out of mud represents purity, perfection, and life. The fruit motif embroidered on the panel appears to be a melon, symbolizing love and fertility, which are values central to Chinese culture. Along with smaller flowers dotted sporadically throughout the textile, there are what appear to be butterflies, a symbol for joy. They are predominantly blue, likely celebrating Springtime, but also incorporate yellow, the symbol for royalty. The wings of the butterflies are decorated with black Swastikas, which was originally a Buddhist symbol for peace. The irony of our contemporary association of the Swastika with hate rather than peace speaks to the tragedy of cultural appropriation, as this appropriated religious and cultural motif incites violence and generational trauma today. Along the border of the skirt, there are cloud and lotus motifs in blue, which further supports the idea that this could have been a Springtime garment.
Look I: Sari, green with pink, gold, orange detailed trim
Unknown designer, India
Gift of Lydia Bodman Vandenbergh
This olive-green iridescent sari in a Hindu garment of Indian origin that features gold, pink, and orange striped trimming along the edges. The word sari translates to “strip of cloth” from Sanskrit. A sari is a long, uncut piece of fabric that is particularly and artfully wrapped and draped over the body. It can be as long as 30 feet. Though saris have been worn in this form since the Indus Valley civilization, which peaked around 2500 B.C.E, this particular sari is from the mid-20th century. The sari is an incredible example of a long-held religious dress practice that continues to exist in its original form but has managed to change via generational fashioning. It is worn by Hindu women and others in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The traditional wrap is usually accompanied by a blouse called a choli or ravika.
Look J: Lime green ensemble
Designed by Bonnie Cashin
CF+TC # 3203
Gift of Philip Sills
This suit was designed by Bonnie Cashin and is the ultimate example of her work: bright colors with turn-and-toggle fastening. This design features a boxy canvas jacket with a shirt collar. It has two pocket flaps decorated with green leather trim. The hem, center front, and collar are all designed with the same leather trim. The jacket is matched with a pair of canvas pants with leather trim at the top. The ensemble is a bright lime green with brass toggle hardware to contrast. The hardware resembles the hardware used by Cashin to revolutionize Coach. Her comfortable and casual design also emphasizes her belief in designing for mobility.
Look K: Independence headscarf
Unknown designer, Nigeria
CF+TC # 2015.02.040
Gift of Paul & Doris Ward
On October 20, 2020, the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) opened fire on peaceful protestors in Lagos, killing and wounding demonstrators. The protestors were participating in the #EndSARS movement, which calls for structural changes to address police misconduct as well as broader measures to address poverty and unemployment in the country. The exhibition team supports the #EndSARS movement and condemns the police violence and the murder of protestors in Nigeria. The Nigerian flag was a significant symbol for the independence movement in 1960, as seen on this scarf on display in “Green Armor,” and remains an important symbol in current social movements. Today, it is carried by protestors, worn around their shoulders, and represented on protest posters.
Integrating both English text and visual motifs with Nigerian iconography, this silk-screened headscarf celebrates Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960. The shades of green used on this particular scarf echo the country’s new flag, which was designed in 1959 by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi. The two green stripes framing the flag’s white middle are depicted waving above the heads of the four women on horseback. Represented in the center of the map of Nigeria (at the cloth’s center) are the country’s diverse natural and agricultural resources. The horses might also refer to Nigeria’s coat of arms, also adopted during independence, which flank the insignia and represent dignity. Factory printed textiles began to be imported into Africa from Europe in the 19th century, and commemorative clothes, often printed with photographic images, were introduced in the early 20th century. While these textiles can mark and celebrate various events, fabrics and headscarves, such as this one, have frequently been utilized in Nigeria to communicate and display political beliefs.
Look L: Green wrap dress
Unknown designer, United States
The origin of the wrap dress was designed in the 1930s by Elsa Schiaparelli. Multiple versions of this popular style were developed after this period. In particular, designer Diane Von Furstenburg popularized this style of day dress in the early 1970s. Throughout the 70s, the wrap dress became a symbol of feminism and the contextual flexibility required by the working woman. During a 2014 interview with TakeingTwo co-host Alex Cohen, Von Furstenburg confirmed that the dress represented empowerment and confidence for women. She said, “What we do is celebrate freedom and empower women, and sell confidence, because at the end it's the confidence that makes you beautiful." This dress wraps the body in the power of green.
Look P: Wedding dress
Worn by Lucretia Burnham Bates on her wedding day
City of Paris Dry Goods Co., United States
Gift of Samantha Chang Wykoff ‘98 and Charles Wykoff
This two-piece pale green dress is a wedding gown worn by Lucretia Burnham Bates in Oakland, California, in 1905. It was donated by Lucretia’s great-granddaughter-in-law, Samantha Chang Wykoff, Cornell class of 1998. The gown is from the long-forgotten department store, the City of Paris Dry Goods Co., in San Francisco, California, which was located in a building that that is now home to Neiman Marcus. The City of Paris was a San Francisco staple after the California Gold Rush and survived both the 1906 Earthquake and fire that destroyed much of the city. The department store was famed for its French imports such as silk and lace. It was also the site of holiday Christmas tree lighting in San Francisco that came to be known as “The City’s official Christmas Tree.” Today many brides-to-be still go to the location where The City of Paris Dry Goods Co. was founded to find their dream gown and to enjoy a coffee under the original City of Paris Rotunda.
Look Q: Green windcoat
Designed by Issey Miyake
Gift of Esther Sinclair
Issey Miyake’s penchant for billowy garments play with structure and form. Inspired by the kimono (which sits at the cornerstone of Miyake’s design ethos), the windcoat emulates the feeling of wearing air. When Miyake unveiled his wind coat in the late 1980s, boxy shapes marvelously transformed by electric fans that compressed, billowed, and extended the form. This windcoat was constructed from breathable, water-repellent nylon and retailed for about $400-$600, which was considerably less than Miyake’s designer jackets. This collection consisted of ten styles in total that could be worn by both men and women.
Look R: Light green surgeon's smock
Fashion Seal Uniforms, Superior Surgical Manufacturing Company,
CF+TC # 2007.02.010
Gift of Susan Watkins and Nathaniel Belkin
This two-toned surgical gown was produced under the Fashion Seal Uniforms division of Superior Surgical Manufacturing Company. It is comprised of waterproof “Liqua-shield” sections that cover the surgeon’s front, from their torso down to their legs as well as their arms below the elbows. This waterproof fabric is designed to prevent bacteria and other contaminants from penetrating the fabric. White coats were the standard for surgical dress starting in the late nineteenth century; however, by the mid-twentieth century surgical apparel switched to utilizing green colored fabric for a number of social, psychological, and physiological reasons. White surgical clothing, when combined with bright lights of surgical procedure rooms, resulted in an afterimage of green when the surgeons looked away from the patient’s red blood and innards. To combat this, the complementary color of green was adopted for use. Additionally, the green shade desaturates red bloodstains on the fabric, making them appear as a less conspicuous brown color when the surgeon would meet family members or other visitors post-operation.
Look S: Chador in green, blue, and white print
Worn by Mrs. Holma Alasti
Unknown designer, Iran
Gift of Mrs. Holma Alasti
The chador is a traditional form of veil/hijab worn by Iranian women in public and private spaces. Usually made out of lightweight cotton, silk, or synthetic fabrics, this semicircular cloak is used to cover the head and body of women when praying or in the presence of namahram (men who are ineligible to marry them). Cotton fabrics are reserved for everyday use, while satin and silk chadors are usually worn for special events. Regardless of the occasion, this form of veiling requires knowledge, experience, and practice to make sure that it is appropriately secured and draped over the body. Because the chador does not include any fastenings, the wearer must hold the veil in place at all times. This green, blue, and white cotton print chador was donated to the CF+TC by Mrs. Holma Alasti in 1966. Mrs. Alasti visited the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship from Tabriz, Iran, and would often wear this chador while praying in her Ithaca home or when in the presence of male visitors.