Family and Consumer Sciences Department Unveils Couture Ordinaire Fashion Exhibit

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Shawn Nakamoto, (808) 956-9095
University & Community Relations
Kristen Cabral, (808) 956-5039
University & Community Relations
Posted: Oct 2, 2001

The Family and Consumer Sciences Department of UH Manoa‘s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources plans to open its new Costume Gallery with a special exhibit entitled Couture Ordinaire: American Fashion of the 1940s. The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the UH Art Gallery‘s exhibit of Theatre de la Mode, an exhibition of over 150 post-World War II miniature French fashion mannequins that toured Europe and the United States in 1945 and 1946, from the collection of the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington. Both exhibits will open on Sunday, October 7.

While Theatre de la Mode is an exhibition of haute couture, Couture Ordinaire is a presentation of clothing of ordinary Americans. What was made by hand in haute couture was mass-produced in the clothing of middle class Americans. Couture Ordinaire exhibits full-sized mannequins with dresses and accessories produced in the mid to late 1940s. The similarities to haute couture are primarily seen in the garment‘s design lines, while the differences relate to the relative absence of handcrafted details in the clothing worn by the middle classes in America.

The exhibit is a four-month project designed and created by Dr. Linda Arthur, UH Manoa professor and curator of CTAHR‘s Historic Costume Collection. It was put together with assistance from her independent study students. Three of the ensembles featured in the exhibit came from a former UH professor, Rhoma Bowers. She was a member of the OSS before coming to UH in 1949 and she wore the outfits to various governmental functions just after World War II.

All of the apparel featured in Couture Ordinaire comes from CTAHR‘s Historic Costume Collection, one of the largest collections of garments, textiles, and related artifacts in an American university. Referred to as The Collection, it consists of four subcollections — Asian, Hawaiian, Ethnic and Western. The Asian subcollection, with 4,000 items, is the largest holding among academic institutions in the United States. The Hawaiian subcollection contains nearly 1,200 items and is the only collection of its type in the nation. The Ethnic subcollection provides a global view of costume from cultures all over the world, predominantly Western folk cultures, while the Western subcollection is also one of the largest in the nation with more than 6,000 items focusing on the clothing worn by mainstream Americans.

Couture Ordinaire has been planned in conjunction with the UH Art Gallery‘s showcase of Theatre de la Mode, a collection of miniature fashion mannequins set in elaborate theatrical stages created by the French fashion industry after World War II to revitalize the industry and raise war relief funds. The collection is on its third world tour and this is the first time it will be shown in Hawaiʻi. These projects are a collaboration between CTAHR‘s Historic Costume Collection Curator Linda Arthur and UH Art Gallery Director Tom Klobe. Betty Long, a UH alumnae and registrar at the Maryhill Museum of Art, is overseeing the construction of the Theatre de la Mode exhibit in the UH Art Gallery.

Both exhibits will open with a reception on Sunday, October 7. Couture Ordinaire will run from October 7 through November 8, weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. Theatre de la Mode will run from October 7 through December 21, weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m.

For more information about the Couture Ordinaire exhibit, contact Linda Arthur at (808) 956-2234. For more information about Theatre de la Mode, contact the UH Art Gallery at 956-6888.