Fashioning a Legacy Irwin Sweeney Miller Style
In the 19th and 20th centuries, art and design was nurtured in Southern Indiana by the Irwin Sweeney Miller family. Best known for their community involvement and architectural innovation, these business leaders further expressed their appreciation of art and design in their manner of dress.
The men, women, and children of the Irwin Sweeney Miller family wore fashionable clothing that reflected the evolving aesthetic seen in cities such as New York, London, Paris, and Berlin. They brought to Columbus the cutting-edge style of the tailor-made, ready-to-wear, and couture designs from around the world.
Fashion, as an element of our material culture, is molded by a wide array of factors such as social mores, economy, war, technology, music, and art. Through the use of color, surface design, line, space, and volume, the fashions exhibited here reflect many of these influences.
The women’s dress reveals shifting ideals of femininity. The silhouettes of the ensembles range from exaggerated hourglass to columnar. Propriety and modesty are expressed by concealing or exposing parts of the body. The line and shape of the gowns evoke a sense of the era and the rhythm of popular dance - waltz, Charleston, foxtrot, and the twist.
Both men’s and women’s sartorial styles of the 1930s and 1940s mirror the structured, masculine line of the military uniform. The fabrics in these ensembles tell a story of advancement in textile technology and economic systems that took us from a world of cotton, silk, linen, and wool into a universe of synthetic blends.
Finally, in the same manner as the architecture, furniture, interior and landscape design embraced by the Irwin Sweeney Miller family, these ensembles echo art movements of their period including art nouveau, art deco, orientalism, modernism, and op art.
Fashioning a Legacy Irwin Sweeney Miller Style provides a looking glass into the past and reveals the image of a family whose taste and sensibilities set the fashion pace in Southern Indiana, leaving us a heritage of style and innovation.
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