On one of my commutes home from work, I drove past the Detroit Historical Museum and saw a sign outside that read "Fashion D-Fined: The Past, Present and Future of Detroit Fashion." I immediately got excited because I knew that meant there was an amazing exhibit inside for me to check out.
The exhibit, which is located inside of the museum's Booth-Wilkinson Gallery, showcases 20th century fashion from Detroit designers and retailers of the past and present. It was so cool to look at actual garments from some of the city's most beloved shops of way back when, like Hudson's and Winkleman's.
When I visited the exhibit, I was taken on a time travel trip, if you will. I looked at pieces from each decade spanning from the 1940s to the 2010s. I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to fashion history and tidbits, so I really enjoyed looking at each piece and seeing how it compared and contrasted to ones from the previous decade.
I came into the museum knowing a few things about my city's fashion history, but I left with a head full of new knowledge. I learned about Ruth Joyce, who was one of Detroit's "design legends." Joyce was a couturier in the city who worked a ton of retail jobs before opening her own boutique on Livernois (a.k.a. the Avenue of Fashion) in 1947, and then later moving her business to Van Dyke Place on Jefferson Avenue in 1963. Joyce was best known for her European-style tailoring and conservative aesthetic.
I also learned that there was a Saks Fifth Avenue in the New Center area. Who knew?!
I knew that everyone in Detroit loved Hudson's department store, but I never knew just how much it had to offer until I read about it at the exhibit. The 12th floor of the store was apparently used as an auditorium, and a lot of fashion events were hosted there. The store also worked closely with the youth in the area. Starting in 1947, Hudson's selected 30 female local high school students annually to educate them on etiquette, fashion consciousness and self-esteem. During their time in the program, the students participated in a yearly fashion show and had the opportunity to represent Hudson's at in-store events.
Hudson's, as well as other department stores in the metro area, had youth advisory boards. The boards consisted of college students and other young people that worked with the stores' management teams and provided them with feedback and insight on emerging trends.
I spent about an hour reading and gazing at everything in the gallery. I basically took pictures of everything, lol. There were over two dozen Detroit brands and designers that were highlighted throughout, including:
Himelhoch Brothers and Company
- Paulina Petkoski
While all the designs were absolutely beautiful, it was actually one of the smallest parts of the exhibit that inspired me the most: the Detroit Fashion Writers excerpt. I know that my dreams are not unattainable, but there's just something about reading/hearing about people from your hometown pursuing their passions that really pumps you up, ya know? I can't wait until someone writes a blurb about me in a museum! Haha.
Detroit is so much more than automobiles, so I love it when the city is highlighted for its other aspects, particularly those dealing with art and culture.
If you haven't checked out "Fashion D-Fined," I highly recommend it. The exhibit will close on December 31. The Detroit Historical Museum offers free admission to the public. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., as well as on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. For holiday hours, click here.
Have you gone to see the exhibit already? If so, what was your favorite part? I'd love to start up a discussion!