By: Kimberly Redmond
Fashion is about more than clothes.
People’s attire, whether it’s the flapper dresses of the 1920s, mini skirts of the 1960s or grungy flannels of the 1990s, say a lot about shifts in the political, economic and social climate.
At the Morris County Historical Society, visitors have the opportunity to view history, through the lens of clothing style. Through June 2019, the society will present “Iconic Culture: From Little Black Dress to Bell Bottoms,” an exhibit that includes over 125 pieces from throughout the 20th century.
“People really relate to clothes. It is the single most unique characteristic of humanity and something everyone can relate to,” Executive Director Amy Curry said. “They draw people into history in a way that few other things can. And, that allows us to open discussions to deeper cultural and historical topics, so it’s a gateway to history.”
From the timeless designs of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel to the trend-setting bell bottoms of Sonny and Cher, the exhibit explores more than five decades of history through an exhibit featuring nearly 125 pieces from the society’s textile collection.
“Nearly 90 percent of what’s on display originated from New Jersey, about 84 percent from Morris County specifically. That was really important for us to show our visitors, most of whom are from New Jersey,” Curry said. “Fashion trends can be more global, but this exhibit is really about New Jersey’s expression of the interconnected relationship of fashion and history.”
“Iconic Culture” also highlights cultural milestones in local, state and national history that coincided with the Roaring 20s, Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam Era.
Visitors are also invited to share their own recollections about significant historical events, such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. or the success of the Apollo Mission.
Docent-led tours, which take about an hour, are available or visitors can explore on their own.
The exhibit – which is the largest ever presented by the society – has been “very well received,” Curry said.
“Our visitors tend to enjoy the 1920s formal and the iconic flapper style, but many connect most with the 1950s formal pieces and the 1960s, in general,” she said. “For many, these time periods represent youth and young adulthood and they really enjoy the trip down memory lane.”
Staffers are currently rotating in new pieces so that the exhibit continues to evolve, she added.
“People can see it again, for the first time,” Curry said.
In recent years, many museums across the country have found success with similar exhibits. A look at the relationship between fashion and the Catholic Church drew record crowds to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018, making it the most attended exhibition in the museum’s history.
Iconic Culture will run through June 16 at Acorn Hall (68 Lafayette Avenue, Morristown). The museum is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for students. Children age 12 and under, as well as members, are admitted for free.
Groups of 10 or more are encouraged to make reservations.
For more information visit www.MorrisCountyHistory.org or call 973-267-3465.