Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will cast a fresh eye on two centuries of innovative and distinctly American fashion this fall in the museum’s first exhibition dedicated to fashion — Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour. Based in Bentonville, Ark., the exhibition explores and celebrates the nation’s diverse fashion heritage and spirit of invention.
On view September 10, 2022, to January 30, 2023, Fashioning America features more than 90 designers and iconic American labels. The exhibition spotlights the untold stories of underrecognized and underrepresented designers, important contemporary movements shaping the industry, and American fashion’s resonance in global trends and visual culture.
Through seven themed sections showcasing the expanse of American fashion as the amalgamation of all things culture, the exhibition emphasizes the work of Black and Native American designers and features geographical representation of fashion designers and histories from across the country.
Fashioning America will also tell stories of women designers and female-led businesses that found great success within the male-dominated fashion industry, including corset inventor Emmeline Philbrook and famed undergarment designer and industrialist Olga Erteszek, whose category-dominating eponymous brand began with $10 and a sewing machine.
Designs by Halston and Christian Siriano, among others, represent queer culture, gender non-binary inclusivity, body positivity, and social activism, while demonstrations of sustainable fashion are layered in by zero-waste pioneers Shelly Xu and Natalie “Alabama” Chanin.
“American fashion reflects the complexity of America writ large, weaving together stories of innovation, immigration, independence, self-invention, and creativity. The sweeping story of American fashion encompasses designers from all walks of life — from the rural to the urban, from the regional to the global — who embody history past and present and represent issues related to inclusion and exclusion,” says the exhibition’s curator, Michelle Tolini Finamore.
The museum will host a full weekend of public engagements November 12-13 to deepen exploration of the exhibition and its themes through talks, drop-in workshops, fashion pop-ups with emerging designers, an evening fashion party, and more. This program is organized in collaboration with INTERFORM, a Northwest Arkansas-based nonprofit supporting fashion designers and entrepreneurs.
In concert with the exhibition, the museum is partnering with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) to explore issues impacting the future of the American fashion industry and celebrate new design talent in the Heartland.
The newly created CFDA x Crystal Bridges Heartland Scholars Award — through a gift at the direction of Olivia Walton — will foster design talent in students based, studying, or raised in the American Heartland (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas). An annual call for applications and all scholarship information will launch via CFDA.com in January 2023.
Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour is organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, with guest curator Michelle Tolini Finamore, Ph.D. Visual artist Ruben Toledo is serving as design consultant for the exhibition. Paid admission is required for this exhibition. Tickets are available at CrystalBridges.org.