Floral fashions featured at Troy museum showcasing Ohio State collection

“There are flowers everywhere, for those who bother to look.” — Henri Matisse

Here’s your opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with:

  • A white lace gown worn by Ladybird Johnson at a birthday party in her honor, thrown by her husband, President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • A pillbox hat worn by Annie Glenn, wife of astronaut and senator John Glenn and designed by Hermann Patrick Tappe who was originally from Sidney, Ohio.
  • A black silk shift by designer James Galanos donned by actress and television personality Betty Furness.
  • A white/purple bubble hem gown by designer Yves St Laurent owned by Terre Blair Hamlisch, wife of composer Marvin Hamlisch.

What all of these garments have in common is their floral theme. They’re all part of “Flower Power, Flora in Fashion,’’ a delightful exhibit currently at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in Troy. It’s a perfect outing for this time of year.

In addition to dresses, the colorful array of artifacts also includes gloves and shoes, purses and hats. They all come from The Ohio State University’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection. Exhibition curator Gayle Strege said the show focuses on humankind’s relationship with our natural environment and the ways in which we adorn our bodies with botanical elements from head to toe.

You’ll see those historic fashions displayed on the first and second floor of the Hayner Center. All all decorated with some botanical element: flowers, vines, trees, fruits, leaves, and nuts. Lovely!

“Designers’ conceptions of floral elements echo the art and social movements of their time, place and culture,” Strege explains in the wall text. “Artisans translate those concepts into garments and accessories that can be worn to express one’s personal style and individuality.”

She said the exhibition features fashion designs that reflect the range of 20th-century art movements, including naturalism, modernism, abstract art, and pop art.

“Any of the warp-printed dresses distort/blur the floral motifs so that’s why I consider them abstract,” said Strege.

Warp printing is a technique that combines textile printing and weaving to create a patterned fabric.

She said she especially loves the realism of the dandelion hair comb and the wisteria hat.

The items you’ll see on display at Hayner are made of cotton, linen, hemp, jute, pineapple, raffia, palm leaves, tree bark, and other botanicals.

In addition to learning about the fashions, there are also fun facts about some of the famous folks who wore them. You’ll learn, for example, that native Ohioan and Otterbein University grad Terre Blair Hamlisch worked in television in Columbus before moving to New York. She met her famous husband when their respective housekeepers introduced them and she often wore couture gowns when the couple attended openings of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.

She wore the gorgeous dress on display to the 1990 opening of the season of the New York Philharmonic in September of that year.

The 1920s hat worn by Mrs. Glenn was designed by Hermann Patrick Tappe who was originally from Sidney, Ohio. She wore the rose petal-covered hat to a luncheon hosted by Ladybird Johnson in 1962.

The exhibit also includes hundreds of buttons that come from the Ann W. Rudolph Button Collection. Pick up one of the magnifying glasses and you’ll see the intricate floral designs on these tiny treasures. The buttons are made of glass, metal, ceramic, and vegetable ivory. See if you can find the roses, fuschia, pansies, poppies and irises.

Strege has written that the natural world has been an inspiration for clothing and textile designs since humans started decorating textiles and wearing clothes across cultures and geographies.

“Floral designs are timeless and universal, and plant materials play a large role in our production and ornamentation of cloth and clothing.”

More about the curator

Though her mother had a sewing machine and had made some clothing for her when she was young, Strege hadn’t considered costume and fashion design as a career until she took a course in the history of costume in her university’s theater department as an undergrad.

That was, she said, a light bulb moment.

“It was like art history but with a focus on costume,” she said. “Then I thought if I wanted to make costumes for theater, I should know about making clothes.”

She then learned basic garment construction, pattern-making, draping, tailoring and couture sewing techniques.

Over the years she has worked in a variety of costume shops for regional theaters and immediately prior to working at OSU she worked in the costume collection at the Chicago History Museum.

Strege has been in her position at Ohio State since 1996 and has curated over 30 exhibits.

“I really enjoyed working on the Columbus Fashion Story that we mounted for the 2012 bicentennial of the city,” she said. “It was great researching all the dressmaker, tailor and store labels in the garments in our collection and teasing out those stories.”

She originally designed the floral fashion exhibit for the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster which is where Hayner director David Wion first saw it. He immediately thought it would be a perfect fit for the historic home in Troy.

To complement the show, the Hayner hosted a garden party on June 5. The successful event attracted 150 patrons who enjoyed a jewelry making workshop by Hayner instructor Connie Galey and refreshments in the beautiful Hayner Courtyard. If you visit the exhibit, be sure and see the courtyard where the museum hosts free concerts in the summer months.

How to go

What: “Flower Power: Flora in Fashion”

Where: The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W. Main St., Troy

When: 7-9 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. Through June 30.

Admission: Free

More: Presented in partnership with the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection at The Ohio State University. To see more of OSU’s past exhibits, check out https://go.osu.edu/colsfashionstry.

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