Fashion & Beauty

From Closet to Collection

May 27, 2015


Thanks to our generous friends at Hillwood, MyLittleBird will be giving away tickets to the “Ingenue to Icon” exhibit.  Write a comment below to be eligible for the giveaway. Follow MLB on Facebook for more info!

IN A BOX SOMEWHERE, maybe at my sister’s house, is a snapshot of me in my first prom dress. The dress has spaghetti straps, a lace overlay on the bodice and an ice-blue bell-shape satin skirt. Yes, of course the satin pumps are died to match! Altogether not so bad for a girl then living in the wilds of New Jersey.

Did I tag the dress, marking down the occasion, detailing its “provenance” (Lord & Taylor? Stern’s?) and its fabrics? I did not. Nor did I preserve it in any way; I’m sure it has spent the past 40 years or so at the bottom of a landfill.

That’s only one way in which I am different from Marjorie Merriweather Post, heir to the Postum Cereal Company, which became General Foods Corporation, and a striking figure in boardrooms and ballrooms. Born to the great breakfast cereal fortune in 1887, Post grew up knowing she had importance and therefore her possessions were important. Perhaps the doyenne of the Hillwood estate wasn’t 16 when she penciled “My first ballgown” on the tag attached to her tulle-and-lace Sweet 16 dress. But whenever she decided this garment was worthy of being catalogued, the dress was still hanging or boxed somewhere, ready to be conserved.

That sense of importance–and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way–is why we have an exhibit opening at Hillwood on June 6 that includes the corset cover and garter belt from Post’s wedding trousseau–or rather, from the first of her four weddings. “She knew that her clothing represented not just her own style, but a record of women’s fashion,” explained Hillwood’s associate curator of textiles, Howard Vincent Kurtz, who curated the show, “Ingenue to Icon: 70 Years of Fashion From the Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post.”

The garments range from Edwardian gowns (remember, she was born in 1887) to Gibson Girl shirtwaists to flapper dresses on through to her couture gowns and ensembles of the 1940s through the ’60s. Post died at age 86 in 1973.

Ah, but the show opening on June 6 is only half the story, covering Post’s spring and summer attire. The colder seasons will make up the second edition of the show, from October through December.

–Nancy McKeon

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm. Suggested entrance donation, $15; $12 for seniors, $10 for students.

3 thoughts on “From Closet to Collection

  1. Diane Sullivan says:

    Visited Hillwood in April and was amazed to see the new visitors center. Would love to revisit and see this exhibit.

  2. Laura says:

    Sounds like a great exhibit, would like to check it iut

  3. Barbara Hudson says:

    I’d love to go!

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