Fashion Scene: A Stylish Glimpse Into Chicago’s Past

| April 23, 2009 | 3 Comments


By Karyn Brianne

Regardless of if you were born in Chicago or moved here from another locale, it’s hard to dismiss the richness of our town’s history. Most people automatically associate Chicago with two things, politics and sports, and both are fair game. Yet, known to some and unknown to others (ahem, New York), the city of wind actually has quite the fashionable side. And, the Chicago History Museum is making sure that you all know about it via the popular Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum.


Halston, c. 1976

The Chic Chicago exhibition originally opened at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology in October of 2007 and returned “home” last fall. Visitors have the opportunity to view 61 beautiful samples from some legendary labels such as Chanel, Dior, Beene, Halston, and Versace.

The gowns within the collection represent the time period between 1861 and 2004, and are flat out gorgeous. I honestly don’t know how the team, led by curator Tim Long, was able to select only 61 items out of a costume collection of over 50,000 pieces. Yes. 50,000! The next time you think your closet is crowded please think about the Chicago Historical Society!


Charles James, c. 1954

I took the time to browse through some of the gowns online, and I have to tell you that my favorite gown is pictured to the left. The folds on the dress are beautiful, but the colorful (“full” is more appropriate) back is the kind of detail that would make the world stop in its tracks!

It seems that the only person to pick a favorite piece. Tim Long has said that the Paul Poiret piece below is his favorite item, and a couple of my friends have also staked their various claims!

While it’s easy to get caught up in the sheer magnificence of the gowns, the museum wants to make sure that visitors walk away with an understanding of how these items connect to various aspects of Chicago’s history.


Paul Poiret, 1913

The exhibition has featured many events, including lectures by prominent fashion designers, throughout its run. If you haven’t had a chance to check one out yet, don’t fret! While this Saturday’s Chic Tour and Chicago Tea is sold out, there is one more chance to attend an event before Chic Chicago closes on July 29th! On Sunday, June 7th, the museum will show a documentary on Marc Jacobs and his work at Louis Vuitton.

I wish that my 6th grade history class ONLY talked about couture gowns, but I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much. Back then, the only label that I was concerned about was Jordache and I’m sure you won’t find my prized overalls in anyone’s couture costume collection!

Insider’s Tip: Even if you’re not a member of the Chicago History Museum, you can still get in for free if you are a member of the DuSable Museum of African-American History or the National Museum of Mexican Art. No membership? No worries. The Chicago History Museum offers free admission every Monday!

Chic Chicago closes on Sunday, July 26th.

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark Street, Chicago

(312) 642-4600

Hours: Mon-Wed 8:30-4:30p, Thurs 9:30-8p, Fri-Sat 9:30-4:30p , Sun 12-5p

Admission: Adults: $14 with audio tours, Seniors (65+): $12 with audio tours, Students (13–22 with ID): $12 with audio tours, Free for children (age 12 and younger)

All images are the property of the Chicago History Museum.

This is an original Chicagonista article.

Karyn Brianne is a native Chicagoan and the Editor of The Fabulous Giver and the Chicago Philanthropy Examiner for When she’s not chained to her MacBook, she can be found enjoying her beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood.

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Category: Fashion Scene, Featured

About the Author ()

Karyn Brianne is a native Chicagoan and the Editor of The Fabulous Giver and the Chicago Philanthropy Examiner for When she's not chained to her MacBook, she can be found enjoying her beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood.

Comments (3)

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  1. admin says:

    I was blown away with your article! Thank you for writing this. So beautiful!

  2. Kristen says:

    Oooh! I hope I can find time to go before the show ends. I think you might also be able to check out a pass for the History Museum from your local Chicago Library branch, in case Mondays don’t work for you.

  3. TERESA says:

    I always look forward to your new posts, I learn more compared to school. Always looking forward. Thank you. My blog

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