Avenir Museum’s spring exhibitions feature Manila shawls, Dior and student research

Photos by Jessica Bennett

From an exhibition of Manila shawls titled “And That’s a Wrap” to a collection of pieces researched by Colorado State University students, the spring offerings that recently debuted in the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising are diverse and compelling.

Manila shawl from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising collectionThe shawl collection, curated by Avenir volunteer Marcella Wells, is on display in the Avenir’s University Center for the Arts gallery. It tells the story of how shawls from China were shipped over the Pacific Ocean, from Manila in the Philippines to modern-day Mexico and then to Spain, where they became integral apparel for flamenco dancers.

Wells explains that the silk Chinese shawls began making their way east from the shipping hub of Manila on merchant ships beginning in the 1500s, continuing into the early 1800s. In 1565, Spanish explorer Andres de Urdaneta discovered a wind-friendly northern route across the Pacific from Manila to Acapulco in “New Spain,” where the shawls were taken across land to Veracruz on the Atlantic side, and then shipped to Spain.

Pieces from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising collectionWhen they were adopted by flamenco dancers, Wells says, the fringe on the shawls would get tangled during the dances, so women in Seville and other areas of Spain began knotting the fringe, creating a separate artform of its own. Later, in Europe and America, the garments became known as “piano shawls” because they were draped over pianos for display and to reduce the need for dusting the instruments.

Teaching with Textiles

“Teaching with Textiles: Collections in the Classroom and the Community,” in the Avenir Museum Gallery, shows off the extensive involvement that CSU students have in documenting items in the museum’s collection.

The pieces in the exhibition were researched by students in Avenir Museum Curator Katie Knowles’ “Historic Textiles” course during the Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 semesters.

Dior look suits and dresses from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising collectionEach piece is accompanied by a label containing information about its history, compiled by Knowles’ students based on their original research. The tags made by the students will be kept with the pieces long after the exhibition ends, serving as documentation of the items’ histories.

Pieces researched by students include a crocheted Irish handkerchief, African kente cloth, an Indian man’s turban, a pile rug featuring images from the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, a Guatemalan huipil, a silk kimono with pine motifs, a Peking rug, and a selection of jackets made by ethnic minority groups in China.

Knowles recently enhanced her course to be more diverse, multicultural and inclusive, thanks to a fellowship in the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence, an initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity.

Dior look debutante dresses from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising collectionAs part of the museum’s spring lecture series, Knowles will discuss the exhibition at 7 p.m. April 4 at the Avenir Museum, 216 E. Lake St. The “Teaching with Textiles” exhibition ends May 24.

Dior’s ‘New Look,’ part 2

The Avenir Museum has also installed a second round of Christian Dior-inspired pieces from its collection, continuing an exhibition launched in The Richard Blackwell Gallery last fall to coincide with the Denver Art Museum’s “Dior: From Paris to the World.” The components of the new offerings include “Shawl Collars,” including a gray coat and suit bought at Joslyn’s in Denver and donated by Kellie Masterson; “A Fitting Debut,” which features debutante dresses for girls; “Buttons and Bows,” showing off how Dior’s style accentuated certain parts of the body; “Shirt Dresses” consisting of informal women’s apparel inspired by menswear; and “A Wyoming Wedding,” featuring a bridal gown donated by Margie Raben Jones. In addition, the gallery’s cases show off examples of actual Dior accessories, from a scarf to hosiery, highlighting how effectively Dior branded his products with his name.

Japanese sashes from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising collectionThe items will be on display until June 14.

New Threads

The ongoing “New Threads” exhibition in the Lucile E. Hawks Gallery showcases some of the museum’s most recent acquisitions. New this spring are a couple of Japanese sashes called sakiori obi; a Mr. Blackwell evening dress that is among about 60 Mr. Blackwell pieces donated last fall by Joyce Aimee; a paisley coat donated by Carol Sarchet and made from a cut-up shawl; a paisley Oscar de la Renta jacket donated by Kellie Masterson; and a Fruit of the Loom maternity smock and an Yves St. Laurent jumpsuit, both donated by Margaret Wallace.

The Avenir Museum is in the Department of Design and Merchandising, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. For hours and more information, visit the Avenir Museum website.