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Located on Level T of the Human Ecology Building

“Seeing green” is a way of being, literally through the green-lens sunglasses and perhaps poetically through the layers of a costuming grass skirt. In this exhibition we hope to articulate a thoughtful story about, and engaged with, the verbiage associated with static garments. How do garments and accessories serve us (literally) and how we are served through their performative history and relation to our bodies? Armor is functional apparel and a system of defense. In our uncertain world, we inhabit a body that requires momentum and foresight. By wrapping, covering, cloaking, suiting, and storytelling we both function and perform what we must...

Green-lens sunglasses
Green glass, oval, frameless, brass nose piece with crenelated grip.

Green-lens sunglasses

Unknown designer, United States

Circa 1880-1900

CF+TC # 1997.37.081

Gift of Laura Treman Almquist

Pince-nez is a French word for eyewear (e.g., spectacles) that literally translates to “the pinching of the nose.” This particular design originated in Europe in the late 14th century, and reached peak popularity between the years 1880-1900. They are considered by many to be a more comfortable because they are lightweight and lack the standard earpieces we have become accustomed to. Our eyes are the most sensitive to the portion of the color spectrum that encompasses greens (hence our perception of nature as mostly green); therefore, these green lenses provide protection and are superior to gray lenses. They also provide better color contrast, and do not distort color at the expense of mitigating brightness like brown lenses may. Pince-nez were worn primarily by wealthy, white men as a symbol of elite education and social status in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What does it mean to “see green” in the context of the 21st century?

Grass skirt
b) green-dyed grass skirt, plaited at top to hold strands together and form waistband A) pair of anklets to match

Grass skirt

Unknown designer, Hawaii

Date Unknown

CF+TC #387ab

Gift of Beulah Blackmore

This skirt was made of synthetically dyed raffia and meant to imitate the look and feel of grass skirts worn by Pacific Islanders. Traditionally, grass skirts were made out of ti leaves and worn by Indigenous peoples of Kiribati. Indigenous peoples of Hawai’i did not wear grass skirts like the one on display. Instead, they wore clothing made out of bark cloth, known as Kapa, which was created by taking fibers from the paper mulberry tree and pounding them together into a non-woven textile. The association of Hawai’i as a colorful, romantic tourist destination during the interwar period led to the creation of “aloha attire”—that is, commodified interpretations of Hawaiian dress designed for tourists. Western-constructed narratives of Hawai’i, therefore, likely inspired Beulah Blackmore, Cornell’s first faculty member in Textiles and Clothing, to purchase this particular skirt for the collection in 1936.