Is Baltimore a fashionable city? If the Spectrum of Fashion runway show was any indication, the answer is a resounding OH MY GOD YES. The catwalk performance featured 100 looks by Baltimore-area couture designers, boutiques, stylists, artists, jewelers, and vintage shops and was stunning from start to finish. The centerpiece of the Maryland Historical Society’s Gala and Fashion show on October 5, 2019, the catwalk spectacle marked the official opening of Spectrum of Fashion, an exhibit at the museum which features garments that span four centuries and includes nearly 100 examples of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, as well as decorative arts.
Why is a collective Baltimore fashion show important? Rather than presenting one style or message, the Spectrum runway show reflects the mission of the exhibition: to present a wide and diverse range of excellence, and to show that the past and present reality of fashion are clearly linked to Baltimore’s cultural identity in a local, regional, and national consciousness.
As emcees Alexandra Deutsch and Christian Siriano, guest host and a featured artist in the exhibition, introduced different looks and designers, a variety of models walked the runway with poise and attitude, and it was a delight to be a part of a crowd clearly thrilled, full of oohs and aaahs. There were claps and cheers, people danced in their seats, and the appreciation for the range of creative efforts was palpable. It was exciting to see a range of body sizes and styles in the selection of models, all gorgeous and clearly a reflection of Baltimore’s diverse population, as well as a certain sartorial edginess that is essential in keeping our attention.
The fashion show was organized by Stephanie Bradshaw and, although it did not attempt to explicitly mimic the range of garments in the exhibition, there were specific artists and designers who chose a historic work that inspired their runway designs. There were original lines and looks from Jody Davis, Bishme Cromartie, and Ella Pritzker, whose works are also included in the collection. There were stylistic collaborations between fiber artists and jewelers, organized by Shane Prada of the Baltimore Jewelry Center and Vicky Pass, a fashion historian and professor at MICA, sponsored by the Baker Foundation.
There were looks created by fashion boutiques like Ruth Shaw and Katwalk, and it was fantastic to see these more experimental works in conjunction with vintage style from Victoria LeGrand’s Spaghetti, Milk and Ice, Keeper’s Vintage, Get Shredded, and others who reinforced the relevance of the historic designs in the exhibit.
The exhibition is unique for the Maryland Historical Society and came about after curator Alexandra Deutsch (former Vice President of Collections and Interpretation at the Maryland Historical Society and now Director of Museum Engagement at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library) realized the museum had been storing a previously uncatalogued collection of couture, costumes, and other kinds of clothing, and saw this collection as an opportunity to tell the story of Maryland history.
Spectrum of Fashion links this history to a larger American narrative, to “former presidents and to the formerly enslaved, to the internationally famous, and to everyday Marylanders, all of whom have important stories to tell. Designers represented include Maryland-born Claire McCardell, Hermès, Pierre Cardin, and Worth, to name a few. Rare survivals, such as livery worn by formerly enslaved individuals at Hampton Mansion in Towson, and a gown worn to George Washington’s inaugural ball, are also included.”
The Maryland designers, boutiques and vintage dealers who participated in the fashion show include Angel Park Boutique, Christopher Schafer Clothiers, Francesca’s Atelier and Bridal, Jill Andrews Gowns, Katwalk Boutique, Sassanova, Wrabyn Boutique, Rebeca Myers Design, Ruth Shaw Boutique, Bishme Cromartie, Jody Davis, Gough & Randolph Clothier, LLC, Keravani, Shana Kroiz, Carlous Palmer, Ella Pritsker, Kirk Shindle, Stephen Wise, Get Shredded Vintage, Keepers Vintage, Love Allie Boutique, Love Me Two Times, Luna Blue Vintage, Milk & Ice Vintage, Parisian Flea, Spaghetti, and The Welsh Bohemian. The Baker awardees from the design challenge included are Margo Csipo, Gina Denton, Earle Bannister Couture, Maria High, Matthew Tomplins Fashion, Full Circuit Studio Jewelry/Baltimore Trash Talk, Camille Marine/JK Fashion Closet, Mary Raivel Jewelry, Marla Parker, Shana Kroiz Jewelry, Katja Toporski, April Wood, and Elaine Zukowski. (Cara Ober)
In our photo essay by Jill Fannon, we present our favorite looks from the show, in an effort to capture the magical nature of the event.
Earle Bannister Couture
Camile Marine/ JK Fashion Closet
Maria Louise High
Shana Kroiz Jewelry
Marla Parker / Fluid Circle Studio Jewelry
Matthew Tomkins Fashion
The following photos may include multiple looks for each designer, atelier, or boutique.
The Welsh Bohemian:
Get Shredded Vintage:
Love Me Two Times:
Love Allie Boutique:
Ella Pritzker Couture:
Christopher Schafer Clothier:
Gough & Randolph:
Wrabyn Boutique, Jewelry by Rebecca Myers Collection
Milk and Ice Vintage:
Luna Blue Vintage:
Carlous Palmer with Kirk Shindle, jewelry by Shana Kroiz:
Jill Andrews Gowns:
BACKGROUND OF THE FASHION ARCHIVE
The MdHS Fashion Archive was born from the rediscovery of the museum’s costume collection, beginning in 2008. For nearly 30 years, thousands of treasures, dating from the 18th to the 21st century, remained in storage like a time capsule waiting to be reopened. The Fashion Archive contains more than 14,000 articles of clothing and accessories spanning four centuries. It is the largest and most comprehensive fashion archive in the state, and one of the preeminent costume collections in the nation.
Top Image: Emcees Christian Siriano and Alexandra Deutsch