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January 1999

We're delighted to announce the addition of a dozen late 20th century "special occasion" garments to the clothing collections of The Henry Ford! We couldn't decide what to highlight from his group so we've picked out two to show you. And be sure to read further-we want to hear about your New Year's Eve outfit for an exhibit we're working on.

The Henry Ford is planning an exhibit on special occasion clothing from the recent past. However, we hardly have any clothing for special occasions from the last few decades-clothing worn for weddings, proms, special birthdays (Quinceaneras, Bat Mitzvahs, fiftieth birthday bashes) and New Year's Eve. So, we asked women in the greater Detroit area what they wore for these celebrations and why-we asked for reminiscences, photos, and if possible, we wanted the dress for our collections! We received dozens of responses and ultimately chose several of these special dresses for our collections.

We've learned lots from public responses. Many women told us that the way in which a woman presents herself during a special occasion (when someone knows they are "on display" in front of many) often requires careful planning and consideration. One's "look" or "image" is often the result of negotiating a great many factors-the wearer considers factors such as personal finances, how much she wants to look like others, what "Mother" might say, what the dictates of fashion are (hoop skirts? Or miniskirts?), and personal taste. In a sense, each dress we acquired is the embodiment of these factors melding together in order to create an "acceptable" dress. We think that dressing for the special occasions of our lives is complicated-you probably agree!

Here are two photos of young ladies in high school dance dresses. We acquired both of the dresses depicted here because each strongly projects the wearer's image or "look."
polaroid image
The white miniskirted dress was worn by a homecoming queen in a suburb of Detroit in l967. This young lady was known for her artistic fashions and wanted her prom dress to set apart from others
In contrast, the young lady in the pink Junior Prom dress from l960 would rather fit in with those around her and not look avante-garde but still look fashionable. So, the wearer based the prom gown on popular fashions, consulted with friends and even used Jacqueline Kennedy's fashions as inspiration!

We're still looking for other special occasion dresses from this century. Anything in your closet used for a special birthday, wedding, prom, Bat Mitzvah, Quinceanera, New Year's Eve, etc. that you really think "says" or projects your personal style? We're interested in hearing about it! Please forward a description of the dress, your reasons why it projects "your style," along with your name, telephone number, address, and e-mail address, to: nancyb@TheHenryFord.org
We'd love to hear from you.


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