Pam Parmal Talk Wrap-Up

Earlier this month, Pam Parmal came to speak to our guild. Pam is the David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and spoke about “A Focus on Fashion: The current collecting strategy at the MFA Boston”.

Pam Parmal, speaking

We had plenty of Show and Tell – there is a great write-up on the Show and Tell Ravelry thread with pictures. The items displayed were a happy yellow crocheted dress, a destined-for-heirloom handknit wedding veil, a sweet watermelon baby blanket, a fun gender neutral baby toy, a vest that was instantly coveted, an amazing double-knit optical illusion scarf, lonely handspun yarn looking for a project to call its own, and a dazzling colorful shawl.

The talk itself was breathtaking. Did you know that when the Museum of Fine Arts started, it helped the textile industry grow? The original logo shows the marriage of “Art, Education, Industry”:

MFA logo showing interlocking rings of art, education, industry

In fact, the second acquisition the Museum of Fine Arts made was a tapestry. Pam proceeded to explain and show pictures of the acquisitions and the acquisition strategies that the Museum curators have had throughout the years. For example, in the 1900’s one of the curators focused only on flat fabrics, and turned down opportunities to collect Charles Worth dresses. Menswear is particularly difficult to find because it was worn until it was worn out, or nobody saw the value in keeping it around.

Every lovely slide was met with a collective gasp or sigh of “wow” from the audience when it was displayed. For example, the last slide shown was a modern evening dress from 2005 by Olivier Theyskens (which Nicole Kidman wore for a full-color cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 2004):

Silk, Tulle and Feathers evening dress

In the present, the collection is focusing on 20th century fashion, using strategies that range from asking for donations or buying direct from modern-day houses of fashion and couture to checking eBay.

Pam wrapped up by talking about some of the exhibits that displayed the collection, for example the 2006 exhibition called “Fashion Show” and a 2007 shoe extravaganza called “Walk This Way”. Currently the museum is working on next summer’s exhibit, “Hippy Chic”, and there were a few photos of recent acquisitions the museum has been making to round out the exhibit.

There were plenty of questions, including if there was a study room for those working on research projects to examine the collection (there is!) and how we can help. Pam let us know that the Textile and Fashion Arts department relies on donations for funding. On the MFA web page, there are two different “Friends of the MFA” groups that will help the department – the Textile and Costume Society and the Fashion Council.

Over 50 members and guests came out to the meeting. Our next meeting is Friday, November 9th and features Gale Zucker talking about “10 Tips & Tricks for Fabulous Photography- Knitwear & Beyond”. And remember, you can join or renew your membership online!

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