Gallery Features Hundred-Year Retrospective on Women’s Suits; Calvin Klein Designs Among Highlights

Colorado State University’s Gustafson Gallery will feature an exhibition March 20-May 1 titled "Women’s Suits: Transformations in Form and Fabric, 1890-1990."

The exhibition will show how technological advances in textile and apparel production have influenced the evolution of women’s suits during the past 100 years. The show opening will be from

4-6 p.m. March 20 in the Gustafson Gallery, located in the Gifford Building on campus. The gallery is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and all exhibits are free and open to the public.

The garments in the exhibition come from the historic costume and textiles collection in the department of design, merchandising and consumer sciences at Colorado State. Highlights of the show include suits recently donated by Calvin Klein Inc.

"Although suits have been a part of women’s wardrobes for the last 300 years, they have become a standard fashion statement for women of the 20th century," said Linda Carlson, curator of the Gustafson Gallery.

Carlson said the suit’s evolution has been influenced by dressmaking vs. tailoring techniques, increasing popularity of ready-to-wear fashions, simplification and standardization, prevailing silhouette trends, fabric availability and new fiber technology.

"We found that making connections to technology helps explain changes in form, fabric and definition," said Brenda Brandt, co-curator of the exhibit and associate professor in the department of design, merchandising and consumer sciences. "Each suit in the exhibit will be identified as representative of a particular decade. Technological changes that occurred during each period will be noted and related to changes in the suits."

Colorado State’s Gustafson Gallery was among a select number of institutions worldwide to receive donations from Calvin Klein Inc. Other recipients included the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Kyoto Museum in Japan, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Los Angeles County Museum.

"We are delighted with the ongoing gifts from Calvin Klein," said Carlson. "The pieces are beautiful examples of modern fashion. The donated suits are an integral part of this exhibition, and we’re also looking forward to adding Calvin Klein pieces from the 1970s and 1980s to our collection."

The Calvin Klein pieces featured in the exhibit are representative of 1990s fashion, and include a highly tailored suit in a luxurious silk and wool tweed. The suit’s cognac color and finely detailed features represent the rich tones and elegant shapes that have become popular with improved production machinery and better availability of high quality fabrics.

A sleek pant suit by Calvin Klein also will be displayed. The deep green suit is made from a hammered ribbed wool, a novelty fabric that represents the diversity of materials being used in the 1990s.

Students, faculty and friends of the gallery participated in a group study that formed the basis of research for the exhibition.

The Gustafson Gallery’s collection, which includes about 10,000 artifacts, is actively used by faculty, students and independent scholars studying design, construction and material culture of middle America.