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A Fashion for the “Exotic”


Bayh L15.36.2a-b

A Fashion for the “Exotic”: From Charles Frederick Worth to Oscar de la Renta

With Laura Camerlengo, Assistant Curator of Costume and Textile Arts with Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Saturday, May 7th, 2016, 10 a.m. Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the Textile Arts Council $5 for students and members of the FAMSF, $10 General Admission For centuries, fashion designers have been inspired by the “exotic” – a term often used to describe designs that have the aesthetic characteristics or qualities typical of faraway or foreign lands, but one whose definition has fluctuated throughout fashion history. For some designers, exotic fashions indeed allude to the styles of a distant country or unknown culture; for others, the concept is looser, and used to create new fashions that are colorful, striking, and extraordinary. In these latter instances, as fashion designer Dries van Noten has remarked, the exotic is “everything that reroutes us from the ordinary”.

“A Fashion for the ‘Exotic’: From Charles Frederick Worth to Oscar de la Renta” will provide a broad survey of fashion’s exotic influences from the late nineteenth century to the present. From fantastic fancy dress costumes to experimental women’s clothing styles, this presentation will explore how designers like Charles Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Dries van Noten, and more have manifested the exotic in their creations, often drawing upon Asian, African, and Native American dress and design vocabularies as well as the folk traditions of northern and eastern Europe. In celebration of the Museums’ special exhibition Oscar de la Renta (March 12, 2016 – May 30, 2016), the late designer’s creative use of myriad exotic influences – from sarong evening skirts inspired by traditional Southeast Asian dress to trench coats made from Uzbeki ikat fabrics – will also be examined.

This presentation will highlight artworks from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s renowned costume collection, including several important recent gifts to the collection designed by Oscar de la Renta and San Francisco-based fashion designer Gibson Bayh. The topic will be further contextualized by contemporary sketches, paintings, and still and runway photographs.

Laura L. Camerlengo is the Assistant Curator of Costume and Textile Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Prior to joining the Museums’ staff in June 2015, Ms. Camerlengo was the Exhibition Assistant in the Costume and Textiles department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In this position, she organized numerous exhibitions of the Museum’s costume and textiles collection as well as assisted with preparations for the Museum’s special fashion exhibitions, including most notably “Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love” (2014). Ms. Camerlengo previously held graduate and post-graduate fellowships in the costume and textiles departments of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her research areas include nineteenth-century Western fashion accessories and early-twentieth-century Eastern European folk costume, and her writings on these subjects have been published by the Smithsonian Institution, Berg, and Rowman & Littlefield, among other publishers. She holds a Master of Arts degree in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from Parsons, the New School for Design/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.


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