Art Institute Students Evoke Margaret Brown's Era With New Designs

"A friend once pointed out that it wasn't proper to wear diamonds in the daytime. I didn't think so, either, until I had some of my own." That's a famous quote from Margaret Tobin Brown, better known as Molly Brown. The Molly Brown House Museum's new gem of an exhibit, Diamonds in the Daytime: The Changing Fashions of Margaret Brown's World, bridges the gap between history and fashion. 

"During this time period, women were demanding the right to vote and for health reform and dress reform. A lot changed for women in the public sphere, including their fashion," says Nicole Roush, curator of collections at the Molly Brown House. The exhibit shows how fashion reflected the rapidly changing society of Margaret Brown's world, from 1867 to 1932, and how style was shaped by political, social and health issues, as well as technology, environment and economic status. For example, women had to wear corsets and ten pounds of undergarments in the Victorian era; when women made more progress politically, their wardrobe reflected their newfound freedom.

Diamonds in the daytime may have been a faux pas in Brown's era, but now they're viewed as a sign of glamour and privilege. "Margaret Brown did play by society's rules to an extent, but what she felt strongly for she went outside the bounds of society for," says Roush. "She was not a stereotypical Victorian women. Margaret Brown wore her diamonds in the daytime." Brown was known as a fashion icon not just in Denver, but around the world, as a result of her extensive travels to Paris, Japan and New York. 

As an adjunct to the show, the museum partnered with the Art Institute of Colorado to showcase the talent of local fashion students, who made fashion illustrations and clothing using Margaret Brown's life for inspiration. Students from three classes were challenged to create a modern garment or a drawing of one based on Brown's personal aesthetic as well as historical designs. Here are the garments that won a place in the show:

The students who drew the winning fashion-plate illustrations are going to have their artwork replicated into prints, magnets and postcards to be sold at the museum's gift shop. The winning illustrations: 

Honorable mentions in illustration went to Antonio Tafoya and Edwin Ricke, honorable mentions in fashion to Margaret Sanzo and Pablo Pantoja. The exhibit runs through August 30, and there will also be a special event on June 13, Vintage Looks and Modern Twists: A Fashion Show, presented by the Molly Brown House. Click here for more information and to get tickets to the fashion show. 

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