Mint Museum Uptown honors fashion history with a ‘magical installation’ | WFAE 90.7

A special exhibition will be unveiled at the Mint Museum Uptown Saturday, Dec. 10. Called “Fashion Reimagined: Themes and Variations, 1760-NOW,” the installation celebrates 50 years since the founding of its fashion collection by what is now the Mint Museum Auxillary.

Senior Curator of Craft, Design and Fashion at the Mint Museum and curator of the exhibit Annie Carlano said that she hopes that visitors will leave with both knowledge and a sense of feeling.

“I want people to feel a sense of awe in how incredibly beautiful and creative these design solutions are to decorating the body,” she said.

Fashion Reimagined will feature 50 fashion ensembles chosen out of thousands from the museum’s collection and follow three themes: Minimalism, Pattern and Decoration and The Body Reimagined.

“They’re going to experience these three different strains of historicism that permeate fashion history,” Carlano said. “They should feel what that is, as well as look and see all these details and think about what these dresses are saying about the time that they were made.”

Tae Smith, fashion and textile conservator and dresser behind the exhibition, hopes that visitors will appreciate the details of each piece.

Courtesy of the Mint Museum

“Evening Sheath with Matching Neck Scarf” is by French designer Madame Alix Gres.

“There’s so much craftsmanship that has gone into these garments and just, you know, the embroidery, the hand sewing,” Smith said. “You can just look at a garment to stand in front of the garment for a half hour or an hour and just look at the construction of it.”

When dressing the mannequins, Smith said that there are many things to consider, like how the ensemble will look from different angles, the understructures of the garments, how they were meant to be worn and the preservation of the clothing itself.

Exhibition highlights include a rare 1828 wedding ensemble by Italian fashion designer Maria Monaci Gallenga, gowns by Madame Gres and Oscar de la Renta and both men’s and women’s fashion from 20th-century innovators like Coco Chanel and Giorgio Armani.

One of Carlano’s points of pride was acquiring the funds for a menswear ensemble by Nigerian American designer, humanitarian and filmmaker Walé Oyéjidé, who uses creative storytelling to combat bias. His designs have been featured in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther,” displayed in museums around the world, such as in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands — and now Charlotte.

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Courtesy of the Mint Museum

A menswear ensemble by Nigerian American designer, humanitarian, and filmmaker Walé Oyéjidé is displayed in the “Patterns and Decoration” part of the exhibition.

“It’s almost a social experiment to use beauty as a weapon against bias,” Oyéjidé said. “By presenting the most beautiful image possible, we then are forced to kind of discard initial biases we may hold towards the subject and ask what the human story is.”

Oyéjidé will present the North Carolina premiere of his documentary “After Migration: Calabria” at the Mint Museum on Saturday, Dec. 10, as part of festivities celebrating the exhibition’s opening.

While much of the museum’s collection is focused on American and European fashions, Carlano says that they are making a more focused effort to acquire pieces that reflect more global expressions of contemporary fashion. Fashion Reimagined will feature an ensemble by Indian fashion designer Anamika Khanna, making it the second museum in the U.S. to do so.

“I think it will be a surprise for a lot of people, especially new to Charlotte, how incredible our fashion collection is,” Carlano said. “It’s on par with most in the larger museums, and it deserves to be better known.”

Carlano says that she believes one of the showstoppers will be an 1884 wedding gown bought from L.P. Hollander and Company. The piece, which includes a bodice and skirt, is made from a variety of silk and satin and boasts faux pearl and lace details.

“I hope people look carefully and everything because again, out of thousands of objects, these 50 were selected,” she said. “So they are all extremely interesting in a variety of ways.”

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Courtesy of the Mint Museum

An ensemble by Indian fashion designer Anamika Khanna will be one of the 50 pieces on display at Fashion Reimagined.

Besides the ensembles, the exhibition will also include interactive elements. While visitors will not actually be trying on clothes, “Shape Shifters” is a dressing room with magnetic forms on the mirror that will allow them to envision themselves in garments from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by an illustrated catalog with contributions from Carlano; Lauren D. Whitley, independent scholar and curator; and Ellen C. Walker Show, the museum’s director of library and archives; and fashion designer Anna Sui.

There will be two videos on how men and women dressed in the 18th century, which Carlano says are wonderfully educational and entertaining. For families, there will be books on fashion for children to read and spaces for them to do so.

“I think it’s a magical installation. I’m so proud of the Mint, the incredible Mint staff that make all this happen, as well as consultants,” Carlano said.

Exhibition Information:

“Fashion Reimagined: Themes and Variations, 1760-NOW” will be on view from Dec. 10 through July 2, 2023, at the Mint Museum Uptown at the Levine Center for the Arts, 500 S. Tryon Street.

The exhibition is free for members and kids 4 and younger; $15 for adults; $10 for college students and seniors 65 and older; and $6 for ages 5 to 17.

The Mint Museum will have all-day free entry on Dec. 10 for Mint Fashion Day Celebration. Other events will include a panel discussion about Fashion Reimagined and a screening of Oyéjidé’s documentary “After Migration: Calabria.” More information here