John Foster | Accidental Mysteries

Accidental Mysteries

This past week I had the great fortune to spend some time at The Gregg Museum of Art and Design at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. There I was able to peruse a magical exhibition entitled Barkcloth, Bras, and Bulletproof Cotton: The Powers of Costume. The diversity of the show was intoxicating. One minute I was mesmerized by a Thai gangster vest, covered with mystical, tattoo-like drawings, and the next I was viewing a 1960s hot pants ensemble. The exhibition, which closes August 31, 2012, was guest curated by Janine LeBlanc. Over 150 objects from across the world and from all periods of history make up this exciting show.

This is the exhibition description:

According to the Biblical story of Genesis, the moment that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and became self-aware, the very first thing they did was make themselves something to wear. Using amazing objects from the Gregg Museum’s permanent collection, this exhibition explores not only how clothing serves to protect, shelter, shield, and modify the human body, but also how what we wear helps us lure, seduce, dominate, segregate or manipulate others, discover spirituality and personal self awareness, proclaim our individuality or group membership, or express ourselves. Photographs, artifacts, jewelry, and a dazzling array of outfits ranging from military uniforms, gangster wear and tribal shaman’s garb, to executive power suits and ultra-high-fashion evening gowns, offer a fascinating foray into how clothes can do so much more than merely “make the man.”

Roger Manley, Director of The Gregg Museum of Art and Design, N.C. State University

Roger Manley, the Director of The Gregg, talks about the exhibition here. Follow the Gregg Museum on Facebook, or Twitter @greggmuseum.





Costumes Wedding Uchikake, mid 20th century
Japan, Woven silk, metallic threads

Necktie Jacket, c.1990

Costumes Native American Plains Indian Shirt, c.1880
Lakota (Souix)
Buckskin or elk hide, loom woven beadwork

Costumes Leopard Fur Coat, c.1950
RC McClenning, New Haven, CT

Costumes Tattoo Shirt, acquired in 2000

Costumes Choli, early 20th century
Banjara, India
Backless blouse; cotton with silk floss embroidery and mirrors

Costumes Blue Fishtail Evening Dress, 1909
Callot Soeurs, Paris (active 1895-1937)
Silk and mesh embellished with celluloid sequins and paste gems

Costumes Paisley Bustle Dress, c. 1885
Continental Europe (probably Paris)
Wool walking dress made from a paisley shawl

Costumes Long-line Brassiere, c. 1959
Elaine of Hollywood

Costumes Dayak Hudoq Mask, early 20th century
Kenyah/Kayan peoples, Kalimantan, Indonesia
Carved and painted wood with feathers and grass

Costumes Mask
Carved and painted wood, fabric, mirrors and bristles

Costumes Bird Hat, c. 1910
Taxidermied birdskin on hat

Costumes Jughead Hat, late 1940s
Beanie felt cap, plastic charms

Costumes Proud Partner, 2008
Timothy Maddox (1983- )
Kimono constructed from fast food wrappers

Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. “I enjoy the search for incredible, obscure objects that challenge, delight and amuse my eye. More so, I enjoy sharing these discoveries with the diverse and informed readers of Design Observer.”

Editor's Note: All images are copyright of their original owners.

Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Arts + Culture

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