The impact of Broadway theatrical costuming on the public is the focus of "Fashion on Stage: Couture for the Broadway Theater, 1910-1955," a new exhibit opening July 24 at the Museum of the City of New York.
The collaboration between the museum and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts pieces together 25 original garments, plus articles, photographs, letters and more to showcase a period when costumes in Broadway theatre provided a springboard for contemporary fashion trends.
Designers represented in the exhibit -- which runs to Feb. 27, 2000 -- include Chanel, Mainbocher, Valentina, Charles James, Hattie Carnegie and more.
"This exhibition celebrates the collaboration of performers with designers and stylists who together selected and commissioned contemporary clothing to wear on state," according to exhibit notes. "Each of the leading actresses in modern-dress comedy and drama knew that the correct clothes could help to convey vital facts about her character -- income, social status, aspirations and fatal flaws."
And designers knew that designs on stage would help promote their product to their target audience, the theatregoer. Costumes in the exhibit are displayed on a platform as though waiting to make a grand entrance or exit. The exhibit uses images of mirrors, doorframes and windows to evoke the atmosphere of a Broadway production.
Stars represented in the exhibit include Irene Castle, Gypsy Rose Lee, Katharine Cornell, Lillian Gish, Julia Marlowe, Ethel Barrymore, Ann Andrews, Ina Claire, Tallulah Bankhead, Irene Bordoni and more.
The Museum of the City of New York is at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street in Manhattan. Admission is free, although contributions are accepted. The museum is closed Mondays and legal holidays.
Call (212) 534-1672 for more information.
-- By Kenneth Jones