I really enjoy the search for information. Given a photograph, an exhibit catalog, and a range of dates, the possibilities are endless. I understand the balance between finding ‘added value’ information and wasting my time. I would like to share my favorite discovery.
The woman eating cotton candy
This photo was included in the “Amusements” exhibition collection in December 1964. The installation was on display at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City. The items on display invited play and, well, amusement. The opening night was a benefit for the museum. It featured games of chance and costumed hosts serving refreshments. When I saw this photograph labeled Bonnie Cashin, I assumed that she was one of the costumed hosts. Then I googled her name.
One of the most interesting things about the Library of Congress Authorities is the discovery of the craftsmen that were involved in the art community in the 1960’s. Although not everyone is found in the Authorities, more often than not a search will provide a breadcrumb to follow in awe.
Bonnie Cashin was a fashion designer – well – one of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. She is credited with the development of ready-to-wear fashions, sportswear, for women. She designed clothing with classic styles and ease of construction. She was hired by Coach Leather Products in 1962, where she developed a women’s accessory line. She is the designer of Coach Handbags.
Look at her again. See her fashionable white evening gloves. See her layered outfit recalling the simplicity of a kimono. See the fine natural materials of her outfit. See the strange hat on her head. The hat is pretty silly, in my opinion, but it suits her.
The sixties were a strange and liberating time for women. I wore dresses to school everyday and then changed into pants at home for play. I remember in fourth grade sitting in the auditorium when Mr. Perkins announced that women and girls would be allowed to wear ‘pants suits,’ which were basically dresses with matching pants. I remember the favorite ‘pants suit’ of purple paisley material that I wore that year. The dress code changed quickly, with only a year separating the permission to wear pants suits to wearing pants when it suited us.
Ms. Cashin was a wonderful find. I don’t carry handbags, but my daughter does. When she worked in high end fashion, she got herself a Coach handbag. I knew nothing about them being special. My sister whispered to me that the bag my daughter carried cost several hundreds of dollars. I was shocked. How could anyone pay that much for a bag? This incident – my daughter owning a bag – and my sister telling me about it – is the only reason I know Coach. I am still aghast at the idea of paying for a symbol, but the fabric artist in me understands. Look at Bonnie. She changed the world. Browsing archives can change you too.