By Janet Kelly
All photos from gallery above are courtesy of the American Federation of Arts.
SUMMERTIME 2021, and museums from Paris to Pittsburgh are welcoming visitors again.
Should you fancy a road trip on the East Coast rather than a transatlantic flight, make tracks to Pittsburgh, where the Frick museum continues its tradition of mounting fashion-focused exhibits (e.g., “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” “Undressed: A History of Underwear” and “Paper Couture: The Art of Isabelle de Borchrave“) with “Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960.”
Opening July 3, the exhibit will explain how new technologies and changing social mores influenced women’s clothing and how the basics of women’s sportswear today—from swimsuits to sneakers—were designed during a time when women were achieving more freedom.
A 350-page catalogue by curators Kevin L. Jones and Christina M. Johnson, with a preface by Serena Williams, accompanies the exhibit. Williams, who memorably wore a catsuit to the 2018 French Open, writes, “I have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable for women to do, to be and to wear it sport… “Appreciate the courage and daring of all those women who refused to be confined to the home and insisted on enjoying life in so many ways historically reserved for men.”
Sixty-four head-to-toe ensembles comprised of more than 480 historic objects from the collections of the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles—will feature clothing women wore to participate in activities (including promenading, tennis, horseback riding, camping, cycling, swimming, skiing, skating, flying and driving and illustrate how their clothing related to fashion, function and propriety.
Pieces from well-known sportswear brands that still exist include Keds, Spalding, Jantzen and Pendleton, as well as high-fashion garments from Balenciaga, Chanel, Patou and Pucci.
Among the exhibit’s many highlights are a 1920s beach promenading ensemble—a Jean Patou sweater and wool jersey sailor pants. “A woman could be on the beach or boardwalk wearing them, but by evening she would be arrested if she weren’t wearing a skirted outfit,” according to Jones. A must-see is a cabine de déshabillage, or a personal beach-changing tent, held up by a steel hoop, from late-19th-century France.
From Pittsburgh, the exhibition’s first stop on a three-year tour, the show will travel to Memphis, Tennessee; Davenport, Iowa; Utica, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Jacksonville, Florida and Los Angeles in fall 2024.
Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800-1960
Dates: July 3, 2021 – Sept. 26, 2021
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm
Location: The Frick Museum Pittsburgh, 7227 Reynolds St., Pittsburgh, PA 15208
Youth 6–16: $8
Youth 5 and under: Free
Timed tickets are required for entry to the exhibition. Purchase online at The Frick or call 412-371-0600.
This exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles.
Support for the national tour is provided by the AFA’s Gold Medal Circle: Elizabeth Belfer, Stephanie Borynack Clark, Ashleigh Fernandez, Lee White Galvis, Stephanie R. La Nasa, Merrill Mahan, Clare E. McKeon, Jennifer New, Angela Timashev, and Victoria Ershova Triplett.