Google is expanding one of its umpteen million experiments, Google Arts and Culture, to include fashion collections. What this means for you is an expanded ability to sit at your workplace computer and spend slow summer Friday afternoons staring at lavish dresses and historic hemline detailing.
Dubbed “We Wear Culture,” the new project allows you to get up close and personal with pieces that are often difficult to display and, when they are, very popular and jam-packed with people. The Associated Press:
It is the ultimate fragility of clothes, though, that makes the project appealing to museum curators, explained Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s head curator — whereas many garments are too delicate to be permanently displayed, digitizing a collection makes it viewable forever. The Costume Institute has provided 500 of the objects on display, noted Loic Tallon, the Met’s chief digital officer.
Participating institutions include the Met’s Costume Institute, the Kyoto Costume Institute, the Victoria & Albert in London—as well as 180 others. They even did a behind-the-scenes video with the Costume Institute’s restoration team.
One featured collection is that of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. NMAAHC is now home to the holdings of the Black Fashion Museum, founded in 1979 by Lois K. Alexander-Lane and now “one of the foundational collections” at the museum. The online exhibit honors and offers more background on Alexander-Lane and her collection, explaining for instance:
Lois Kindle Alexander-Lane collected items made and worn by enslaved people, as well as designers and seamstress like Ann Lowe and Rosa Parks.
Ann Lowe (1898-1981), one of America’s most significant fashion designers, was born in Clayton, Alabama, the daughter and granddaughter of seamstresses. Lowe was extremely talented having started sewing at a very early age.
Around 1928, after years of making couture fashions for wealthy patrons, formal training in design school and operating her own salon, Anne Cohen in Tampa, Florida, she began working on commissions in New York at some of America’s best design houses, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and Chez Sonia.
This gorgeous piece by Lowe—who created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown—is featured:
In fact, the museum has another motive besides sharing its holdings with a wider audience than those who can travel to Washington, D.C. in person. NAAMHC hopes that people will be able to provide “historical information, images and media” related to fashion designer Peter Davy, one of the artists that Alexander-Lowe collected, who is also featured in the online exhibit:
During the latter part of his life, Davy became a significant designer of women’s evening wear and the history of his contributions to fashion have been lost. This is an effort to recover the story of his life and work as a designer in the Caribbean and in America. We also hope that this global exposure to the NMAAHC collection will help us identify and collect a carnival costume designed by Davy.
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