WRHS Opens New Costume Exhibit: In Grand Style

In Grand Style Highlights Elegance and Affluence of Cleveland’s Past Through Fashions from the 1870s to the 1930s
NEW exhibit featuring 35 historic ensembles from the WRHS Costume & Textile Collection opens to the public Saturday, November 8
Contact: Alyssa Purvis – apurvis@wrhs.org

 CLEVELAND, OH – In the late 1800s, Cleveland was one of the great American cities. Much like New York’s social elite, its wealthy residents lived in high style. Elaborate customs and extravagant entertainments characterized the lifestyle, which required suitable wardrobes often acquired in Paris. Historic garments and accessories will soon be on display in a new exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society’s History Center, In Grand Style. These fashions from the 1870s to the 1930s provide a window into the world of privileged Cleveland.

In Grand Style, which opens to the public on Saturday, November 8, showcases luxury and local history. The exhibit, made possible by the Museum Advisory Council and The Payne Fund, features thirty-five ensembles drawn from the historic costume collection of WRHS. The ensembles span from the 1870s to the early 1930s, a period comparable to the one depicted in the popular PBS program, Downton Abbey.

“This exhibit really shows the concentration of wealth in Cleveland in the decades that followed the Civil War,” said Susan Neill, guest curator for In Grand Style. “The fashions of this period tended to be elaborate and dramatic and, frankly, were often very expensive. The pieces on display convey the grand lifestyles of Cleveland’s elite. Each ensemble reflects an individual’s taste and status and also shows the great lengths many went to in order to be well dressed.”

In Grand Style will feature women’s clothing along with several men’s and children’s ensembles to paint a picture of the entire family. Notable Clevelanders are represented throughout the exhibit, many of whom resided in impressive mansions on “Millionaire’s Row,” a stretch of about 40 residences on Euclid Avenue from East 12th to East 55th Streets. The area was home to some of the world’s most powerful industrialists and their families. Familiar people featured in the exhibit include fashion icon Phyllis Peckham, First Lady Lucretia Garfield, and the Wade family.

In addition to the garments in the exhibit, accessories such as exquisite fans, elegant shoes, and beaded bags will also be on display. Portraits of prominent Cleveland residents, some of whom are depicted in the displayed ensembles, will further demonstrate the high manner of living in Cleveland during the time period.

“The success and high visibility Dior & More – For the Love of Fashion, the previous fashion exhibit at the History Center, created a demand for more from the WRHS Costume & Textile Collection,” said Kelly Falcone-Hall, President & CEO of WRHS. “With In Grand Style, visitors will gain additional insight into the collection and see firsthand the style evolution that took place from the late 1800s to the first quarter of the 20th century.”

In Grand Style will be housed in the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing at the WRHS History Center, which recently underwent improvements to help ensure the longevity of garments in future exhibits. Generously paid for by The Payne Fund, these improvements include a motion detector system to regulate lighting that will minimize its damaging effects on fabrics in the gallery. The exhibit will open November 8 and is free with general admission to the History Center.