Seattle Style: Fashion/Function at MOHAI Explores Seattle’s Fashion History

Posted on April 10, 2019, 5:57 pm
4 mins


Seattle style is as eclectic as this city itself and its fashion history mirrors the climate, culture, and opportunity of its time. From Filson outdoor wear beginnings in the 1800s to Helen Igoe, who imported couture from Europe and Paris and brought it to Seattle in the early 20th century, to the humble beginnings of home town hero Nordstrom, this city has a rich history of style.

Cut to today, and you see a city is brimming with local designers, stylish people, residents, and a thriving art and culture scene. While fun is often poked at Seattleites and our love of outdoor and casual wear, Seattle is undeniably become a city where you can count on seeing originality and great style everywhere you look. The beauty of Seattle style is that it is wide-ranging. Whether you are dressing for a soggy soccer game or a night at the ballet, the style of Seattle is not defined by one thing. Perhaps the port city aspect of our region with its unique take on global exposure or the laid back acceptance of anything goes helps create a climate of varied expression in fashion. The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) takes a look at the fascinating history in a new exhibit that is the first of its kind at the museum.

1959 Gown by Howard Blair

Seattle Style: Fashion/Function, a major new exhibit curated by MOHAI’s Collections Specialist for Costumes and Textiles, Clara Berg will open on May 4th and run through October 14, 2019. The exhibit will cover the Seattle men’s and women’s fashions from the mid-1800s to today with rare pieces from the archives of MOHAI. The exhibit gives us a unique opportunity to see what makes up Seattle fashion and why.

“Seattle has a rich history of clothing makers and style leaders,” said Berg. “Outdoor gear, casual wear, grunge—are connected to key parts of our history and had a national and international impact. There are many stories of high fashion in Seattle as well—people who wore it, stores that imported it, and designers who made it.”

Organized into four main sections, Seattle Style surveys key influences on local clothing. Nature and Place explores the relationship with our environment and garments designed for outdoor adventures. Growth and Aspiration tells stories about how clothing options expanded as Seattle became increasingly metropolitan. Northwest Casual takes a deeper look at the city’s affinity for casual wear and its leadership in the casual clothing industry. Innovators and Rule Breakers celebrates Seattle’s rebellious and creative designers and style leaders.

The exhibit is accompanied by a companion book, “Seattle Style: Fashion/Function”, edited by Berg, with a forward by internationally known Seattle-based fashion designer Luly Yang, Seattle Style unveils the complex narrative of Seattle’s vibrant clothing scene and its complex history.

In case you don’t get enough fashion at the exhibit, MOHAI has a series of programs and events that you can find out more about here.

Seattle Style: Fashion/Function at The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)
May 4-October 14, 2019

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109


Images courtesy of MOHAI

Lisa Cole is the fashion and style writer for Vanguard Seattle, and her work includes covering fashion news and events, runway shows and boutiques. She has her own fashion and lifestyle blog,, and is a member of Independent Fashion Bloggers and Fashion Group International.