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New Smithsonian Exhibit Details How Fashion Pioneers Tamed The Frumpy West

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WASHINGTON—In celebration of the massive contributions made by America’s unsung couture heroes, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum Of American History opened a new exhibition Thursday chronicling the struggles of prêt-à-pioneers as they tamed the frumpy West. “These early fashionistas were true trailblazers, bravely striking westward clad in deceptively simple deconstructed calico bonnets and rugged but flattering raw suede vests,” said Smithsonian Exhibits Deputy Director Frances Datta, who noted the style sacrifices made by those who left the tailored, often lavishly accessorized homes they knew to venture into the utterly tacky western expanses. “This is the largest fall collection of frontier fashion artifacts anywhere in the United States, a true testament to the ingenuity and taste of the settlers in the face of almost certain drabness. They were among the first to warn gunslingers, shopkeeps, schoolmarms, and cowboys of the dangers posed by shapeless dresses, unflattering shirts, over-suspended trousers, and the all-too-overdone cowboy hats.” Datta also described how the fashion pioneers first rejected, then emulated, and eventually wiped out the gaudy turquoise-forward color palette of the West’s indigenous cultures.


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