UNION MADE: Exhibit Showcases Labor, Fashion History

By D'Angelo, Stephen | Human Ecology, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

UNION MADE: Exhibit Showcases Labor, Fashion History


D'Angelo, Stephen, Human Ecology


The College of Human Ecology's Cornell Costume and Textile Collection and the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives recently celebrated 20th-century fashion trends and the history of organized labor and union garment labeling through a joint exhibition, titled "Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century."

On display between Aug. 31 and Nov. 3, the exhibit featured 1900s American fashion and the role of organized labor and union labeling efforts in the U.S. textile and apparel industries.

The exhibition highlighted an often overlooked but critically important component of pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) fashion: laborers and the role that unionization played to improve working conditions, compensation and promotion of the U.S. fashion industry through designer awards, fashion shows, education and improvement of the quality of garments made in the U.S.

"The labor unions related to these industries really worked hard to bring about many things we take for granted today," said exhibit curator Denise Green '07, assistant professor of Fiber Science and Apparel Design and director of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection.

"These include safety standards, benefits for employees, an eight-hour work day, the 40-hour work week--all of these were really spearheaded by labor unions in the early 20th century."

Co-curated by Patrizia Sione, research archivist at the Kheel Center, the multimedia and richly-visual exhibition features garments, accessories, photographs, banners, stories, event timelines, archival documents, rare film footage and unique artifacts to illustrate 20th-century American fashion trends and their production. …

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