New Orleans Museum of Art unveils new exhibit, ‘Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour’

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — If you’re someone who loves fashion and history, there’s an exhibit happening in New Orleans that you’ll want to put on your “must see” list.

In this week’s Destination Louisiane, it’s a museum runway, ready for you to be the paparazzi.

It’s a bilingual exhibit in English and Spanish that’s scheduled to stay in New Orleans through Thanksgiving weekend.

The fashion-forward exhibit has taken the stage at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

“It was presented in Bentonville, Arkansas last year and now it’s here in New Orleans,” said NOMA Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Mel Buchanan. She explained that while the core show remains the same, NOMA staff incorporated some signature NOLA flair, especially at the very start.

“You walk in and you see two incredible looks. You have this great silk dress from New Orleans 19th century and then this 2023 look worn by Big Freedia. We study art, paintings and sculpture because it’s a lens into what was important for people, big ideas about politics, religion or personal ideas. You look at fashion and you see the same thing happening, but it’s a little more accessible,” said Buchanan.

The people behind the patterns are a big part of the story, with a spotlight on the lesser known who put their signature on American style. 

“Fashion has always been made by a very diverse group of Americans, Black designers, indigenous designers, women entrepreneurs. In 2009, when Barrack Obama was inaugurated as president, Michelle Obama turned to Isabel Toledo. Isabel Toledo was a political refugee from Cuba who worked her way to become a well-known NYC designer,” pointed out Buchanan.

From grit: “Workwear, outdoor culture, or even kind of hip-hop and fashion, taking it from the street and turning it into fine fashion.”

To glamour: “Wedding dresses, Quinceanera dresses and Hollywood”

Look closely at the patriotic cowboy boots on display in the first room of the exhibition.

“They were designed by a woman (Sarah Madeleine T. Guerin) known for elbowing her way into the male-dominated world of bootmaking. You’ll see women’s names, celebrating women’s presence throughout historical America.”

So put on your boots, your Air Jordans, or whatever suits your style and get to NOMA before this fashion show is over!

Note: Every Wednesday, general admission to NOMA is free to all Louisiana residents. It will still cost you $10 to get into this special exhibit, $5 for teenagers, but anyone 12 and under is free.

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