In this two-part, eight class series, we will meet a selection of fashion's great makers working between the 18th and 20th centuries. We will hear their exceptional life stories, learn to visually identify the signature elements of their work and understand their unique legacies to fashion's past and present.
Registration is now open for Part I of this two-part series.
Part I includes four, one-hour live online classes highlighting pivotal designers working in the Euro-American fashion system between the 18th and early 20th centuries.
The class will meet at 10:00am PDT/1:00pm EDT on consecutive Saturdays between April 6- April 27, 2024. A recommended reading list will be provided for the course, and a recording of each class session will be made available for two weeks after the live class.
The cost for is $100 for all four classes in Part I.
*Part II of this series will commence in early June 2024 and will include four, one-hour online classes detailing great designers working between 1947-2000.
Prior to the 19th century, the vast majority of fashion makers toiled in relative obscurity, known only locally or regionally. Our first class examines the structure of the fashion system at the turn of the 18th century and the lifestyles of its everyday makers. From the tailoring guilds ruled by men to female lacemakers ensconced in convent life, we explore the fashion trades from the vantage point of its skilled artisans who spanned both class and race.
Select examples of known 18th century women makers will be briefly highlighted including British textile designer Anna Maria Garthwaite, Marie Antoinette's stylist Rose Bertin, and Betty and Ona Judge, the mother-daughter duo of enslaved seamstresses living at Mount Vernon.
In this class we will explore the origins of haute couture in Paris and the bold personalities who ushered it into existence. In 1858, the House of Worth opened its doors and revolutionized the fashion industry. Dubbed "the father of haute couture," Charles Frederick Worth elevated the role of a fashion maker from craft/trades person to artist/tastemaker. Legions of women from around the world flocked to receive his exclusive advice and made-to-measure creations.
Worth's next-door neighbors, the husband-and-wife team of Jeanne & Isidore Paquin, countered Worth's elitist reputation. They intentionally showered their patrons with warm, individual attention; a move which quickly grew them into the world's largest maison de couture.
Meanwhile, Jacques Doucet established himself as a major collector of Modern art while simultaneously transforming his family's linen and lingerie business into one of Worth and Paquin's biggest rivals on Paris' famed street of luxuries, the Rue de la Paix.
Corset be gone and comfort come hither! In this class, we will look at the the radical shift in the fashionable silhouettes between the years of 1908-1928, as modern fashion found new forms in the hands of designers such as Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin and Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon).
We will also travel back in time to accompany Lucile as a passenger on the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage and dance until dawn at one of Poiret's extravagantly-themed fancy dress fetes.
Now one of the eldest French fashion houses in continuous existence, the history of Lanvin bridges fashion's past and present. We will explore the tender relationship between mother and daughter that laid the foundation for one of contemporary fashion's biggest houses.
Make room for the Americans! This class explores the rise of sportswear in America as ready-to-wear designers, including Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin, stepped into the spotlight to define a uniquely American Look.
Across the pond, designers including Madeleine Vionnet, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli lent a French twist to their own haute couture sportswear offerings.
Women designers dominated the Paris fashion industry during the 1930s and 1940s, and more than a few rivalries were sparked. We will delve into the very public feud between Chanel and Schiaparelli and and learn to identify the hallmarks of all of these great designers' work.
IMAGE CREDITS: Madeleine Vionnet in her office, Wikicommons; Detail of Elsa Schiaparelli Dress, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Portrait of Rose Bertin, Wikicommons; House of Worth Afternoon Gown, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Portrait of Charles Frederick Worth, Wikicommons; Lucile Evening Gown, Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Portrait of Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, Wikicommons; Portrait of Claire McCardell, Wikicommons; Claire McCardell Playsuit Ensemble, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. All images credited Public Domain.
April Calahan is an art and fashion historian, writer and professional podcaster living and working in New York City. She served as a Special Collections curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology for more than a decade, and her work has been featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, WWD, The Guardian and The New York Times. She has lectured at cultural institutions around the world including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Yale University, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and Parsons School of Design.
In addition to authoring/co-authoring three books on the history of fashion, she is also the co-Executive Producer/Host of Dressed: The History of Fashion podcast, with her longtime collaborator Cassidy Zachary.