Back to

Stars and Sequins

Our guest blogger today is Allison Daly, who worked as an intern in the Textile and Fashion Arts Department from January through April. Recounting her experience at the IMA, the following post was written by Allison before the close of her internship.

I had the honor of interning at the IMA during what I think is a very exciting period for the museum’s Textiles and Fashion Arts department. Inviting exhibitions and what I gauged as a growing interest in fashion arts only reinforces the notion.  Material World opened Friday, April 22nd, following a year long demonstration of avant-garde fashion in the exhibition Body Unbound, Contemporary Couture from the IMA’s Collection. And of course, there was the unforgettable touring exhibition Read My Pins: The Madeline Albright Collection of influential and unique jewelry.  Meanwhile, the Fashion Arts Society consistently engages members in events that compliment the collection, such as a private tour through storage and a virtual meeting with film director Matt Tyrnauer following the screening of his documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor in The Toby.

Through Read My Pins I learned the former Secretary of State, Dr. Albright, communicates messages by carefully choosing what pin to wear: a turtle when she felt negotiations were moving slowly, a gold dove to symbolize a partnership for peace, the sun as a sign of hope in difficult situations. The pendants also add to her outfits. I was inspired by the idea of small accessories communicating messages and influencing outfits from day to day.

Like a pin, a printed silk scarf has the same potential to communicate a message and update suits.

After reading a post on a Pucci scarf in the collection, my interest grew in regard to other scarves housed at the IMA. While in storage, I discovered a charming Yves Saint Laurent design for The House of Dior, stumbled upon a Balenciaga scarf of tiny poly-loop bows, and peeked at gorgeous shawls from Turkey.

Right now, I am in a dream. As a student of design, it is such a privilege for me to study the construction and design of quality works up close.

Before moving from Austin to Indianapolis for this rare opportunity, I was eager to learn more about the projects I would be working on as a curatorial intern. Petra’s post “So…What exactly do you do?” prepared me for the hunt data clean-up initiates and Jessica’s post on “Building a Bird(man) House” got me excited for the hands-on construction I might be participating in with object storage.  As expected after reading these posts, my scarf search evolved into a storage maintenance project. Keeping up with the housing and organization system for objects – there are over 7,000 in the textile collection – is an ongoing responsibility. The task of re-housing the scarf entailed rolling it in Tyvek® around a supportive, archival tube. The new housing received a content identification label to prevent unnecessary handling, and then the roll was carefully threaded onto a rod across a large drawer suitable for flat textiles, like scarves.

While searching, a vibrant, branded Norell, silk twill scarf stood out to me, perhaps because I am patiently waiting for spring to stay here in Indianapolis.

Scarf, 1969 by Norman Norell (1988.298) Gift of Mrs. Max Fisher in memory of Norman Norell


Norell detail (1988.298).

After some research, I discovered American names in fashion were not valuable until the 1960s (from Woody Hochswender’s article in American Heritage Magazine). As a result of Anthony Traina’s retirement from Traina-Norell, both label and company became Norell’s in 1960. The scarf with 100 navy stars and the “Norell” name was featured on the June 1969 cover of Harper’s Bazaar, styled with a Norell outfit.

Norman Norell, a designer from Noblesville, Indiana and son of a haberdasher, was known for successfully converting French couture elements into well -made, American ready-to-wear. I would not have known from the outfit and scarf featured on the cover that Norell’s greatest fashion influence was the Twenties. He drew upon this period for sheath dresses with their straight up-and-down lines, sometimes belted but never seamed at the waist.

The costume illustration below shows the influence The Jazz Age had on his style. The straight-cut, dropped waist, shiny gold cloth and plunging neckline typify dress in the twenties. The sketch is signed “Norell” in the lower right corner.

Costume sketch (recto and verso), 1920s, Norman Norell “ivory velvet” “heavy gold cloth” “vermillion velvet” “parasol & edge of girdle” (center right) “Norell” (lower right) (1985.569A-B) graphite, watercolor, gold ink on paper, Gift of John Moore.

Norell’s inspiration reminded me of conversations I had with FAS members during a meeting in January. After touring Read My Pins, the Fashion Arts Society met in the Fountain Room for a social gathering.  As fashion enthusiasts, we shared our favorites from Dr. Albright’s collection and closed the evening with conversations concerning who will wear what to the IMA’s 3rd annual fundraiser, Flappers and the Flaming Youth.

As a result, a new search began. This time I was looking for accessories to serve as design or style inspiration for the twenties themed event on Saturday, May 21st. at the Oldfields – Lilly House and Gardens, which was designed in the 1920s –how appropriate!

Stole (and detail), 1925-1930, America; Europe, (76.113) cotton net with metal studs, Gift of Mrs. T.S. MacMurray.

This long, cotton net stole is a great example of 1920s design. The decade was all about opulence following the First World War. Shiny metallic materials, similar to the gold cloth suggested in the Norell sketch, were common. The geometric formation of metal pieces on this scarf is typical of the Art Deco movement.

Hat, 1920-1929, (76.315) silk with sequins and beads. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. Noble Ropkey.

IMA guests attending Flappers and The Flaming Youth are sure to have a roaring good time since the night will include, but not be limited to, stars and sequins. I look forward to seeing examples of frocks from the evening. But for now, I am grateful for the days I spent behind-the-scenes, sewing props in the conservation lab and attending to objects in storage, all the while getting to know designers like Norman Norell through their creations.

Filed under: Art, Public Programs, Textile & Fashion

Comments are closed.