'Suiting Ourselves' opens today at Hillestad Gallery

1960s box suit, brown wool by Norman Norell, donor Mrs. Marjorie Woods
1960s box suit, brown wool by Norman Norell, donor Mrs. Marjorie Woods

The classic power uniform, the suit, will be the subject of an exhibition "Suiting Ourselves," that opens Oct. 24 at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery and runs through Dec. 21.

Barbara Trout, professor of textiles, clothing and design and curator of the exhibition, has identified a grouping of women's and men's suits from the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design's historic costume collection. The 35 suits that span the years 1890 to 1990 will become a visual narrative to explain the evolution of this iconic form of dress that people choose to wear to put their "best foot forward." The exhibition depicts how over the past 100 years the suit has functioned as a garment to exercise, travel, attend the theater, conduct business and wear to the interview.

A special feature of the first week of the exhibition will be an Oct. 27 panel discussion moderated by UNL textiles professor Rita Kean. At the 7 p.m. event in Room 11 of the Home Economics Building, a group of Lincoln professionals in retail buying, selling and marketing of suits will discuss the social and economic impact of the suit in the last quarter of the 20th century.

The panel will address suits and the Lincoln retail environment, featuring Ben Simon's, Hovland Swanson and Joffe's Too. Fran Fiala, Lincoln retailer; Lisa Warren, former suit buyer for Younker's corporate headquarters; and Rob Simon, former Lincoln retailer and current UNL professor, will sit on the panel in Room 11 of the Home Economics Building on 35th Street north of East Campus Loop. Refreshments and informal modeling by Textiles, Clothing and Design students will follow at 8 p.m. Students will feature original designs stemming from repurposed suits and wool fabric.

"Suiting Ourselves" will feature an exceptional grouping of women's suits from the World War I period, as well as a set of hand-tailored suits from Savile Row in England. Donors from across Nebraska and beyond have contributed vital examples of suiting from designers such as Coco Chanel, Bonnie Cashin, Norman Norell, Adele Simpson, Pierre Cardin and Hattie Carnegie. These items were produced with the best fabrics and are pure examples of quality tailoring. Viewers will appreciate details that have all but vanished from today's normal attire, such as bound button holes, tailor-basted lapels, welt pockets and sculpted peplums.

Color evolution within the suit movement will also be evident in the exhibition. Post-war suits of the 1950s with subdued tones give way to bright crimsons, then to the pastels of the 1960s and back to gray in the 1970s. Many of the designer garments originated from the rich retail heritage of Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding areas.

The Hillestad Gallery is part of the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences. The gallery is on the second floor of the Home Economics Building. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and by appointment. Admission is free.

More details at: http://go.unl.edu/asw