A Colorful Collection of Seattle Style: Form/Function at MOHAI

Posted on May 01, 2019, 10:10 am
4 mins


The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) Exhibit, “Seattle Style: Form/Function” much-anticipated exhibit is set to open on May 4, 2019. The exhibit, which was curated by MOHAI’s Collection Specialist for Costume and Textiles, Clara Berg, gives us a glimpse into the storied history of Seattle Fashion in a colorful collection of unique pieces.

Berg points out that while it is common to poke fun at Seattle’s fashion, or lack thereof, there is, in fact, a meaningful and proud history to our area’s style scene. From the trailblazing of our many outdoor gear companies who outfitted a variety of early settlers looking to strike it rich, to the early 20th century, when a herculean effort was made by the first society ladies to travel back and forth from Europe to Seattle to bring the latest fashions. We also see early style innovators like the dapper John Doyle Bishop, whose colorful suits are displayed more than once in the exhibit. And of course, the grunge scene of the 90s that had a ripple effect through the fashion world that lasts to this day. However, there’s more to the story and several movements over the last two centuries that will make Seattle fashionistas proud. The Pacific Northwest style scene is in actuality quite strong and diverse.

John Doyle Bishop Jacket

Nordstrom, who is the main sponsor for this exhibit, also has beginnings deeply entrenched in our city’s history. From the humble beginnings of a shoe store, whose early shoes are featured, to a global fashion ambassador, it is fitting that the company would want to be a champion of this unique exhibit.

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 shows the inclusive and entrepreneurial spirit of our region, including pieces that are made for non-binary people from TomboyX, the adinka cloth church robe and hat made in Ghana that was worn by Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney, civil rights leader and pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, and of course the iconic Utilikkilt. The classic pieces are full of charm, including the Foster-Hochberg Manufacturing Wold’s Fair Pattern Top and Skirt, which features the illustrations of Gerry Abbott, who also created fashion illustrations for the Seattle Times at the time. Each era of Seattle fashion history is represented beautifully, from 80s sweatshirts to silk Pucci cocktails dresses to the elaborate hats of the city’s many millineries.

The exhibit is accompanied by a stellar companion book, “Seattle Style: Fashion/Function”, edited by Berg, with a foreword 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 and is not to be missed.

Seattle Style: Form/Function at The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

May 4 to October 14, 2019

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle WA, 98109, 206-324-1126, Daily 10 am to 5 pm.

Tickets and information can be found here.

Images courtesy of Nordstrom.

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, www.westfultonstreet.com, and is a member of Independent Fashion Bloggers and Fashion Group International.