Arts & Culture

This Weekend: Cheers to American Fashion in Arkansas

See a sneak peek of a stylish new exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Photo: Levi Strauss & Co. Archives

Levi Strauss jeans and Western shirts at the 1947 All American Fashion Show in Paris.

Rhinestone cowboy boots stand alongside elegant Hollywood gowns and streetwear pieces at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s first ever fashion exhibition, Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour, which opens this weekend in Bentonville, Arkansas.  

More than one hundred iconic garments and accessories—such as Nike Air Jordans and Levi’s jeans—that have shaped American fashion will be on display across seven rooms. While household names like Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, and Nike get their nods, the museum hopes to further celebrate and share more about some of fashion’s unsung heroes. “What are the stories that we know and what are the stories that we don’t know? This is really something that percolates throughout the exhibition,” explains Michelle Tolini Finamore, the show’s curator. “We have so many different players who have created this idea of America.”

photo: courtesy of Robert Black
Lloyd “Kiva” New (1916-2002, Cherokee) for Kiva dress, 1950s.
photo: Stephen Lang
Teri Greeves’s Abstraction: Kiowa by Design.

Take for example the story of Ann Lowe, the mastermind designer behind Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s iconic wedding dress. While the Black designer helped dress Jackie O. and some of the most prominent women of the mid-twentieth-century, it took decades for her to get the credit she was due. “When you look at standard history, she’s not included,” Finamore says. “Making sure she is part of this bigger story is important.” Lowe’s pieces have been on display this year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will get another star turn at Fashioning America.

photo: Courtesy of Lisa Perry
Lisa Perry’s Roy Lichtenstein “No Thank You” Dress.
photo: Raoul Gatchalian/Thomas Lau
Anna Sui’s Western-inspired Ensembles, Men’s Ensemble, Americana Collection, from spring 2017.

Pieces from more than ninety designers and artists follow the theme of inclusivity and celebrate those who have helped pave the way for today’s designers. Further highlights include pieces by Bill Whitten, the maker of Michael Jackson’s famous sparkly gloves, and the groundbreaking designs of Virgil Abloh, Lloyd Kiva New, and Christian Siriano. “It is really a celebration of America’s diversity, of the richness of American creativity, fashion creativity,” Filmore says. “I would like people to leave with a more nuanced understanding of American fashion in terms of what we know and what we don’t know.”

Fashioning America: Grit to Glamor opens September 10 and runs through January 30, 2023. Find out more information about the exhibit here.