NORMAL — A traditional Korean hanbok and a sequined dress that called to mind “The Little Mermaid” were among the inspirations for displays at the upcoming “Fashion at the Mansion.”
Both dresses are from the Lois Jett Historic Costume Collection at Illinois State University and will be part of an exhibit at the David Davis Mansion that opens Saturday.
Two ISU students working as interns with the collection, seniors Ashley Legel of Morton and Amy Narunatvanich of Glendale Heights, worked on the exhibit. Both are fashion merchandising majors.
“I love spending time in here. I can learn about the donors and the history,” Legel said. “I really found a passion in fashion history.”
She hopes to combine in interests in fashion and history with a career working for a museum or something similar.
The Fashion at the Mansion fundraiser serves several purposes, explained Jennifer Banning, an associate professor and curator of the Jett collection.
Saturday's opening event will raise money for the Tricia Widner Johnson Scholarship Fund, which honors the memory of a faculty member and co-director of the Jett collection who died in 2011 at 36.
Almost $20,000 has been raised in less than five years and only $1,200 more is needed for the scholarship to be endowed, Banning said.
This also is an opportunity for people to see garments and accessories from the collection, which has more than 2,000 items, some dating back to the 1840s.
“This isn't just a university resource; it's a community resource,” Banning said. “Clothing tells the story of what was going on at the time.”
The fundraiser also is a learning experience for students.
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In addition to the work of Legel and Narunatvanich in choosing and preparing the items to be displayed, other apparel merchandising and design students will be present to describe the garments' history and design details.
The mansion's Victorian design and furnishings will be discussed by interior and environmental design students during the special event. Light refreshments will be planned, prepared and served by dietetic interns.
Although the garments will remain on display through Oct. 29, Saturday is the only time students will be on hand to provide explanations and special gloves for closer inspections of the items.
The collection is seen as a teaching tool and the items are used in many different classes, according to Banning.
“The garments need to be in the hands – the careful, gloved hands – of students,” she said. “Our philosophy, being a teaching collection, … is what the students learn outweighs the risk of some damage.”
The hanbok, a traditional dress worn on special occasions, inspired Legel to have a room of cultural garments.
The particular hanbok in this exhibit was donated by Hae Jin Gam, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences. She wore it for her sister's wedding.
Others cultural garments that will be on display include a men's shirt from Burma, a girl's Japanese kimono and an embroidered Swiss dress that the donor wore to a wedding rehearsal dinner in 1972.
Another room display organized by Legel has the theme “Little Black Dress.”
It started with a 1950s cocktail dress that Legel said, to her, “represents the perfect little black dress.” But it also includes a bodice and skirt from the 1890s and examples from other decades, through the 1970s.
Narunatvanich said she decided to put together a Disney-themed room after “I found a lot of dresses and gowns that reminded me of Disney princesses.”
Another room, with the theme “Fall Into Place,” will display different fall looks over the years with a lot of neutral colors and minimalist designs which she said follows “my own personal style.”