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Fashion

Designer Garments From UNT’s Historic Fashion Collection Are on View at NorthPark Center

Vogue’s Hamish Bowles has visited the collection in Denton. Now you can see a small part of it in Dallas.
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Chasing Skirts: The Texas Fashion Collection at UNT includes 20,000 pieces ranging from 18th-century coats to Dior designs and home-ec experiments. It is believed to be the largest holding of Cristobal Balenciaga’s works in the world aside from his own archive. Elizabeth Lavin

A new fashion exhibit opens at NorthPark Center today. Fashion in Residence highlights 14 womenswear pieces from the UNT Texas Fashion Collection. S. Holland Murphy wrote a fascinating feature about the extensive but relatively unknown historical archive for the November 2019 issue of D Magazine. Here’s a taste:

The Texas Fashion Collection contains everything from 18th-century coats to modern-day Alexander McQueen dresses, maternity gear to streetwear, couture treasures to home-ec experiments. There are bridal gowns, lingerie, and ceremonial ensembles from indigenous cultures. Accessories include nearly 1,400 pairs of shoes, 2,500 hats, and 750 handbags. Altogether, there are almost 20,000 pieces.

The trove of designer labels includes 387 designs by Hubert Givenchy, 301 by Oscar de la Renta, 151 from the House of Dior, and an impressive 340 by Cristobal Balenciaga. It is believed to be the largest holding of the designer’s work in the world aside from Balenciaga’s own archive.

The seeds of the collection were planted by the Marcus brothers—Stanley, Edward, Lawrence, and Herbert Jr.—who began gathering 20th-century styles, some say, in the late 1930s. They named it in honor of their aunt, Carrie Marcus Neiman, upon her death in 1953. She co-founded Neiman Marcus with their father and had donated pieces from her wardrobe. The brothers made a point of keeping the collection in Dallas, though offers came to take it east. It eventually was put in the care of the Dallas Fashion Group, which bestowed what was then a few thousand garments to UNT’s fashion design program in 1972 to serve as a resource for its students. It has since become a resource for artists, authors, and curators near and far.

The garments on display at NorthPark will include designs by Lilly Pulitzer, Hanae Mori, and Texas native Todd Oldham. (In her feature, Holland notes that shortly after Oldham had been doing alterations at the Polo Ralph Lauren store in Highland Park Village, he borrowed $100 from his parents, bought a bolt of white fabric, dyed it in his bathtub, and sold the resulting women’s collection to Neiman’s.) The exhibit runs through June 6 on Level One between Neiman Marcus and Dillard’s.

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