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“Seattle Style Fashion/Function”

Fashion? Seattle? Clara Berg, Collections Specialist for Costumes and Textiles, started her introduction to the latest exhibition at MOHAI, with the response she got when she said she was curating a show on Seattle fashion. I must admit that I have often felt that way myself, especially after moving here from Dallas, Texas where women are extremely fashion conscious and well groomed.

But now I see how wrong I was. We not only have fashion—we have invented a lot of fashion!

Of course, a good percentage of our inventions are outdoor wear. Nordstrom, the major sponsor of the exhibition, began when John W. Nordstrom made money in Alaska during the Gold Rush. As we all know he started out with shoes. Clothing did not come until the 1960s. Eddie Bauer developed the down jacket after he had a near death experience. Ski and hiking outfits for women, use of Gore-Tex for jackets, the development of fleece from recycled plastic bottles (is that still true?), grunge, and those amazing Utilikilts! We have lots of fashion in Seattle.

And we also have our share in high fashion clothing. As we enter the show at MOHAI, we first see a batik patterned jacket by John Doyle Bishop worn when he was nationally recognized as one of the 100 most fashionable men in America in 1967. Setting the fashion/function theme of the show, Doyle’s jacket is juxtaposed to a wool ski ensemble from 1948 designed by the Seattle Wool Company.