Retro Chic Abounds at the Chicago History Museum's Latest Exhibition

By Melanie Rud Chadwick | March 15, 2019 | Culture

The Chicago History Museum’s latest big-ticket exhibition showcases the inextricable connection between cinema, couture and cultural identity.

Light gray evening ensemble by Valentina circa 1938, both on view at the Chicago History Museum’s new fashion exhibit.

Hollywood, high fashion and American culture have always intersected in a unique way; in April, the Chicago History Museum offers a look at this relationship with its spring exhibition, Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and ’40s. On display are 30 designs from the museum’s permanent collection, illustrating the distinctive American style and creative identity that emerged during the particularly tumultuous historical era between the Great Depression and World War II.

The ensembles—many of which are on view for the first time—point to a notable shift from Paris-influenced fashions to those informed by Hollywood and cinema. The garments range from brocade evening gowns to wool suits from designers and brands like Valentina, Bergdorf Goodman and Adrian, as well as examples of home dress-making and catalog-purchased pieces, plus custom-made clothing from Paris, New York and Chicago. Alongside the clothing, the exhibit’s additional text and archival images ultimately showcase how a rise in fashion made for the masses allowed even middle-class women to emulate Hollywood styles, giving birth to an entirely new kind of American style. April 8-Jan. 21, 2020, 1601 N. Clark St., 312.642.4600

Photography by: Photo courtesy of chicago history musem