Women for Women: Female Fashion Designers


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

The Women for Women: Female Fashion Designers exhibit will be on display in the Mary Alice Gallery in Morrill Hall until December 19th. 

Alex Connor

Vera Wang, Stella McCartney and Laura Ashley are all female designers considered to have broken the barrier for women in the fashion industry, but the Mary Alice Gallery showed off plenty of women who are waiting to shine bright, as evidenced by a new campus exhibit.

The Mary Alice Gallery in the Textiles and Clothing Museum has an exhibit that brings to light female fashion designers and clothing. The exhibit, “Women for Women: Female Fashion Designers,” open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 11. 

The College of Human Sciences hosted an event Wednesday dedicated to the gallery, which is curated by Janet Fitzpatrick, senior lecturer of apparel, merchandising and design, and Rebecca Lensch, senior in apparel, merchandising and design. 

The exhibit will help the public gather a better understanding of the importance of female designers and their involvement in helping build the ready-to-wear industry. It will do this by celebrating the work of lesser-known female fashion designers including Jo Copeland, Claire McCardell, Tina Leser and Pauline Trigere.

The lights of the Mary Alice Gallery are kept at a low level to help preserve the textile and clothing displayed in the exhibit. It contrasts the Christian Peterson Art Museum, which shines through a doorway on the opposite side of the exhibit.

Fitzpatrick, in partnership with her students, helped to open the gallery by answering the question, “How can we represent women?”

“It began a little over a year ago. Undergraduates did all the searching, and last spring we got in gear. We pulled objects out of storage and asked how well they represented designers,” Fitzpatrick said. “We did the research on the designers in early August, and it then narrowed down to space.”

With more than 9,500 objects and only 504 square feet of display area, the exhibit was no easy task to put together, Fitzpatrick said.

The collection, with some items being close to 100 years old, are all pieces of clothing that have been donated from teachers, students and alumni. Since little to no budget exists for buying the articles of clothing, teachers, especially when the program first began, used their own money to buy textiles.

Limited in its scope, the collection hosts mainly Iowan and Midwestern apparel.

“There are limits in the different exhibits we do. We take a look at what we have and the story we have to tell,” Fitzpatrick said.

The story for this exhibit, which showcases female designers in clothing for day wear, evening wear, winter wear and work wear, guides the public through several designer’s biographies and work.

“It’s the first time we have opened the door to the other museum. We are inviting people to interpret works of art and to think of women as artists in apparel,” Fitzpatrick said.

Shannon Coleman and Melha Mellata, assistant professors of food science and human nutrition, decided to check out the exhibit after seeing a listing for the event.

“I like looking at different styles that are coming back now; there are pieces here that I would wear,” Coleman said.

Showcasing fashions from as many as 22 designers, the exhibit has much to offer when it comes to styles, which are comparable to modern or contemporary designs.

“Definitely an inspiration for shopping this weekend,” Coleman said.

For more information on this exhibit, visit the University Museums website.