Citizen Jane incorporates fashion into festival with historical look at Sportswear

Lori Hall-Araujo and her team take on another year of the Fashion Archive exhibit, presented at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, to look back at sportswear fashion through the decades.

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Being a film event, one might not expect fashion to be incorporated into the Citizen Jane Film Festival’s schedule. However this year at the festival, Stephens College hosted a Fashion Archive show, Teaching from the Collections. Lori Hall-Araujo, professor and curator at Stephens College, worked diligently to pull this year’s exhibition together.

“We have at least one exhibition every year and we pull things usually from our permanent collection,” Hall-Araujo said. “This exhibition [Teaching from the Collections] pulls entirely from things that we have in our permanent holdings.”

The first thing to tackle when starting a new exhibition is brainstorming and research, according to Hall-Araujo. Making a cohesive set accompanied with visual accents and descriptions of each clothing piece takes a team of dedicated and hard-working people.

These fashion archive exhibits would not exist without donors who give their couture clothing to Stephens. Many of these people tend to be alumni of the college, Jennifer Cole, the collections managers for the historical costume collection, said.

The way that the museum collection grows is from the numerous donations that come in. These donations started coming in since the 1958, the year that the gallery was created, and have not stopped since. All of the garments that are in the museum collection are historical and from the 1940s-1970s. This year, at the Teaching from the Collections exhibit, the theme was American sportswear, which connects to a course that Hall-Araujo teaches.

With designers like Geoffrey Beene, Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin, the care and handling of these garments must be done in a specific way. Cole administers the care of donated garments and is able to keep everything intact.

“You know, you don’t want overcrowding,” Cole said. “You want to not hang things that are fragile, so we have flat storage and we have hanging storage as well. And we have accessories and shoes and jewelry that all have different types of storage. But they’re all maintained in the same humidity and temperature controlled environment.”

Some of the garments that come to Stephens travel long distances across the country, and Cole has the pleasure of opening each donation, sometimes getting very generous donors that give lots of their clothes and accessories away.

“I’ll have families from Maine and people from California and Florida and Texas and sometimes a box just shows up,” Cole said.

Olivia Bashaw, a student docent at Stephens College, has worked in exhibits at Stephens since January of 2017. Bashaw sees the importance of having a fashion archive show incorporated into a film festival.

“Costuming and film is really important,” Bashaw said. “What the characters wear on screen tell the story just as much as the script does. To have a character dressed a certain way will give an audience an immediate impression of who this character is.”

Because the Citizen Jane Film Festival celebrates women filmmakers, the Fashion Archive show represents the empowering feeling that fashion can bring to a person while also looking at the outcomes of being a woman with fashion.

“People make assessments about other people based on their appearance before you ever say anything,” Hall-Araujo said. “I think dress in general is important for anyone, regardless of their gender. That being said, women are much more likely to be judged, and judged harshly, for their appearance.”

Every time the Citizen Jane Film Festival comes to Columbia, Stephens students are eager to attend as many events as possible, Bashaw said. The films shown bring people together and give young adults who are interested in film motivation.

“It just brings everybody in the community to Stephens, and they get to see the campus and they get to talk to students involved,” Bashaw said. “It’s a great community building event and it just gets everybody really excited. Like the air changes, it’s like ‘woohoo Citizen Jane’s here.’”

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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