By Leanne Signoriello & Paris Adams – Features Editor and 1851 Staff
Upon passing under the inviting red awning of The Society of Illustrators, gallery goers are drawn in by the prominent fashion on display, and the comical illustrations that accompany them. Through the unique descriptions of each piece, attendees are given an insight into how artists Orson Byron Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson viewed the lifestyle of the American elite in the 20th century.
Drawings of Orson Byron Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson” has traveled to The Society of Illustrators in New York City, after being on display at the Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The exhibit was curated and constructed by Lasell professor Jill Carey, along with a small selection of her fashion history students: Dana Blanchette, Hillary Brown, Erin Lovett, and Victoria Sferrazza.
Fashion and Retail Merchandising major Victoria Sferrazza (‘17) worked alongside Professor Carey in the execution of this project, but it was a collective team effort. “We prepped all of the garments for the exhibit, wrote pages upon pages of research, spent hours analyzing images, and some students even helped set up the exhibit with Professor Carey,” said Sferrazza. “All of the students did a tremendous amount of work, but Professor Carey lived and breathed this project for several years to the point where she would spend most days in the library doing research with primary sources,” she said.
Carey was inspired to begin the research and production of “Fashion and Satire” after longtime friend and benefactor, Frederic Sharf, brought her his collection of satirical illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson and Orson Byron Lowell. Sharf was interested in the fashions he saw in these illustrations, and urged Carey and her students to dig deeper into the connection between the two.
“I said yes, because we would find the fashion connection, and then use our collection and other collections to bring together a research study. So that’s what we did over time. It took about three years of constant work, and then critique and reshaping… It’s quite a process,” said Carey.
“The illustrations, most of them, have a comedic character. It was pretty obvious looking at them from the beginning. They revolved around topics like courtship, emerging women’s rights, social environments, you know, beautiful women and awkward looking men. The humor at this time was really kind of… it was really funny,” said Carey.
Not only do these illustrations depict changing social scenes and values, they also provide an insight into the evolution of fashion; from the latter part of the Gilded Age well into the start of the Jazz Age. With the use of pieces from the Lasell Fashion Collection, American Textile History Museum, and private donors, Carey and her student partners were able to bring the fashion found in these scenes to life.
“This exhibit allowed me to expand my knowledge in fashion history and gave me confidence in my analytical abilities. I also got to see another side of fashion I wasn’t expecting to learn about; curating and creating an art exhibit,” said Sferrazza. “I am so glad that the exhibit is moving through different cities, and I hope it continues so more people can enjoy it,” she said.
The exhibit will be on display until October 28 at The Society of Illustrators gallery at 128 East 63rd Street, New York City. As of now, there are no plans to continue the exhibit, but Carey is enthusiastic of the future and hopes to begin work on a new project following the close of “Fashion and Satire.”