Gertrude Stein: Identities, Words and Art

It’s not often that I get to work on fashion related books at my day job,* though it does happen occasionally. I have several coming down the line, so you might hear about them from time to time.

Accompanying an exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco (opening today), Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories by Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer includes a detailed look on Steins creation of her public persona and the role fashion played in her identity.

According to the authors, “Stein and Toklas had perfected their late-life look by the time they met [Cecil] Beaton in the mid-thirties. From the very beginning of their friendship, the two women shared an interest in dressing distinctively.”

Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show , 1946, Horst P. Horst, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Horst P. Horst Estate (Via the Contemporary Jewish Museum)

The New York Times Style Magazine recently provided an excerpt of the chapter titled “Dress” which chronicles both Gertrude Stein’s and Alice B. Tklas relationships with their appearance and with ‘fashion’ in general.

As girls they spent time at dressmakers, shoemakers, and milliners, where they acquired day dresses and casual shoes for home life; heels, suits, hats, and gloves for the public sphere; and gowns for special evening events. . . . Alice’s hats, a friend wrote, “were all in perfect condition, kept in their original pretty boxes from the most famous milliners. She had superb examples of inlaid feather work by Paul Poiret, huge black-and-gold birds of paradise. . . .

Happily, the exhibition includes vests, pins and other articles worn by Stein, and the book includes photographs and famous artwork featuring Stein’s image. I’ll be attending the opening this evening, and if I can, will post some additional photos.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Aix-les-Bains, France, c.1927, Photograph, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Via CJM)

A whole host of museum and literary events are planned in collaboration with this exhibit, including a UC Extension Course, lectures on Stein’s ties to queer and artist cultures, among many others. Full details can be found here. After the exhibition closes at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, on Sept 6, it will travel to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. where it will run from Oct 14 through Jan 22, 2012.

Volunteer Kathleen Dowling handles a vest from the Gertrude Stein personal effects collection, working to create custom interior supports for the vest for display. (Photo by Anthony Maddaloni. Via Cultural Compass)
Cecil Beaton, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in wallpapered room, 1938, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's (Via CJM)
Gertrude Stein Wearing Balmain Suit, 1946, Horst P. Horst, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Horst P. Horst Estate (via CJM)

 

Photo Sources:

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Cultural Compass

*Full Disclosure: My ‘day job’ is a publicist for the University of California Press.

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