The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Best Dressed: 250 Years of Style from October 19, 1997 through January 4, 1998 (exact dates to be confirmed). Over 200 objects will be exhibited on fully dressed mannequins and dress forms and in striking groups of accessories, drawn from the Museum's own extraordinary permanent collection of over 20,000 objects. This celebration of fashion from around the world will include exceptional feminine attire from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, men's apparel, and Western and non-Western regional dress. The exhibition, organized by Dilys Blum, Curator of Costume and Textiles, will be on view in the Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries on the Museum's first floor.
The exhibition will begin with Western dress from the 18th and early 19th centuries, creations in the most sought-after styles and fabrics of their day. The art of haute couture is celebrated by the first showing of several recently acquired dresses in exceptional condition dating from the 1860s to early 1880s by Charles Frederick Worth, the father of French couture. The overview of high fashion continues to the present, with the leading American, European, and Japanese designers represented. Gala and ceremonial dress from countries around the world ranges from Italy to India, Guatemala to Greece, and Czechoslovakia to China. Among the highlights of Asian dress are a Korean wedding outfit and a complete Japanese geisha's costume.
Fine fashion with a Philadelphia flavor will include the 1956 wedding gown of Princess Grace of Monaco (née Grace Kelly of Philadelphia), shown for the first time together with the dresses worn by a bridesmaid and a flower girl; and 1920s debutante gowns worn by two daughters of famed Philadelphia hatmaker John B. Stetson.
Best Dressed: 250 Years of Style is accompanied by a book presenting highlights of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's fashion collection from Worth to the present. Written by curator Dilys Blum and assistant curator Kristina Haugland, it will feature approximately 40 color photographs of costumes, supplemented by contemporary fashion drawings and photographs. The first comprehensive survey of the Museum's important collection of textiles, with 400 new color photographs taken especially for this project and essays by Dilys Blum, will be published at the same time.