Avenir Museum unveils exhibition of its ‘new threads’

The Chanel dress
The Chanel suit

The CSU football team is not the only one unveiling “new threads” this fall.

One of the exhibitions in the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising that opened Aug. 22 is called “New Threads,” and it’s a wide-ranging collection of pieces recently donated to the museum. It joins two other exhibits at the museum, including the second half of an exhibition of Guatemalan textiles and one featuring work by a CSU graduate student.

Highlights of the exhibition, on display from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Lucile E. Hawks Gallery, include a Coco Chanel suit, a tablecloth from the Chicago World’s Fair held in 1893 and bustle dresses from the 1880s.

The tablecloth from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

The common thread tying the exhibition together is that all of the pieces were acquired recently, most by donation — otherwise, they hail from all over the world and date from the 19th century up to the early 2000s.

Talk about diversity: There are modern burqas, white wedding shoes from the 1920s, Indonesian batiks, an 1890 bonnet sold by the historic Denver department store Daniels & Fisher, and moth-cocoon ankle rattles made by bushmen in Botswana.

The exhibition includes an ensemble from India embroidered with gold string, a Christian Dior chapeau, 1970s suede boots by Dolce & Gabbana, Bolivian woven textiles, and a trench coat from the museum’s most extensive menswear collection: 48 pieces purchased in London by a man who lived there in the 1960s.

There are also tools of the trade on display — wooden “shuttles” used to hold and carry weft thread across looms in the 1800s, as well as metal blocks and a “jaunting” used to apply wax patterns to fabric before it was dipped in dye.

A bustle dress
A bustle dress

The Chanel suit was bought in the 1960s from the Chanel atelier in Paris.

“It’s our very first Chanel, so we’re very excited,” said Avenir Curator Megan Osborne.

The Chicago tablecloth features an intricate image of the administration building at the historic world’s fair that marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. It also includes busts of Columbus and medallions representing the arts, technology and agriculture.

One of the bustle dresses is a bit worn around the elbows and underarms, giving collectors insight into how the fabric was processed before the garment was made.

“This is a good example of something that still has great value despite some natural wear around the area where the arm bends,” Osborne said. “It’s still worth collecting.”

DSC00323Layers of Meaning

The existing exhibition at the Avenir that runs through Fall 2016 is “Layers of Meaning: Color and Design in Guatemalan Textiles.” The collection was donated by New Mexico-based textile and folk art collector and author Martha Egan and by Mary Littrell, textile collector and former head of the Department of Design and Merchandising. On Oct. 20, Egan will speak about “The Culture of Cloth Among Guatemala’s Highland Mayas” at 7 p.m. in the Avenir.

Most of the textiles featured in the “Layers of Meaning” exhibition during the first eight months of 2016 have now been returned to storage, to avoid light damage. Thanks to the sheer size of the Egan-Littrell collection, previously unseen pieces have been added, so those who visited during the exhibition’s first several months have new textile selections to view. And beautiful color photos of Guatemala and its people by Fort Collins photographer Joe Coca now adorn the walls of the Avenir’s Large Gallery, giving context to the brightly colored garments exhibited there.

Last fall, students in the Department of Design and Merchandising’s Historic Textiles class (AM 460) did the research on each piece on display in the exhibition.

“It was a great example of how the museum serves students,” said Doreen Beard, Avenir director of operations and engagement.

All of the exhibitions will be on display through Dec. 16.

The Avenir Museum is part of the Department of Design and Merchandising in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.