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September 21, 2022

by Patricia Browning , Fashion Constellate Archivist

"Princess Radium", Kickaway, and the Rise (and Fall) of Radium Silk


Label from a 1920s Princess Radium Step-in Teddy.The company which became well-known women’s lingerie manufacturer Kickaway had its beginnings rooted in a deadly craze.In 1923, two entrepreneur businessmen from Chicago, Robert and Frank S. Gershenow, decided to capitalize on the popularity of a marvelous metal called radium. At the time, radium - a highly radioactive metal whose isotopes were finally isolated by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898 - had been touted as a cure-all for….well, just about everything.

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August 31, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

The Most Beautiful Woman of the Century; Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, Part II


Chinese Woman and Marquise, 1861-1867. By Pierre-Louis Pierson, albumen silver print from glass negative.In what became the introduction to their First Period (1856-1857) of work, Pierre-Louis Pierson photographed the Countess of Castiglione at his Mayer & Pierson studio in July of 1856. The photograph, titled “Portrait in a Black Dress,” is commonly assumed to be the first Pierson took of Castiglione. This one-time session would first evolve into a project, and then blossom into an association spanning many decades of creative achievement.

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August 24, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

The Most Beautiful Woman of the Century; Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, Part I


A variation on the "Ritrosetta" dress; 1864. Albumen silver print. Virginia Elisabetta Luisa Carlotta Antonietta Teresa Maria Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, was celebrated during her lifetime as the most beautiful woman in the world. Her lovers were some of the most powerful men in 19th century Europe.

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July 23, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

Completely Obsessed ~ The Pieces I Cannot Stop Thinking About (#6)


          Hello, I hope you are doing well, It feels like the world is speeding up again. The return of the rush is intimidating. I was on a call yesterday when this topic came up, and I had a realization: there are a lot of people doing hard work to make the world better. I know a lot of them.

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July 16, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

Completely Obsessed ~ The Pieces I Cannot Stop Thinking About (#5)


Hi Everyone,Life is pretty strange right now; I think no matter who we are, we can all agree on that. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some pretty incredible women at length this week. Any time a lady-person whose work I admire takes the time to talk to me, I always feel humbled, but in the best way? It’s a good thing, I think, to remember how to feel impressed. Somehow, in all those conversations, a theme arose, the idea that apparel can be armor, and that, for a lot of humans, when we wear the right outfit, we feel stronger.

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July 13, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

More Than A Muse; Henriette Negrin, the Inventor Behind Fortuny


Henriette Negrin at work in the Palazzo Pesaro Orfei, photograph by Mariano Fortuny, circa 1909.Anyone who is interested in the history of apparel has at least heard the name Fortuny. Marcel Proust, generally accpted to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century wrote about the haute couture house more than once in his seven volume novel, which has it's own complicated history, but is probably best known in the U.S. as Remembrance of Things Past (1913 - 1927). Decades later, in the 1970s, supermodel Tina Chow began to collect Fortuny pieces.

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July 02, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

COMPLETELY OBSESSED ~ THE PIECES I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT (#4)


     Hello Lovelies, It’s hard to believe we’re already into the second half of 2022. So many things have happened, so many of them traumatic, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t feel positively beat up by the world right now. And at the same time, everywhere I look I see people standing up for what they believe in. I see so much opportunity for us to make a brand new, better world.

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June 25, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

COMPLETELY OBSESSED ~ The Pieces I Cannot Stop Thinking About (#3)


      Hello Lovely Readers, I hope the week has been going well for you, and that wherever you live it is cooler than where I am. As I slowly transition into an indoor-human (I live in Florida, it’s the only option until October), I’ve been poking through my personal projects, trying to decide what I should dedicate myself to for the summer.

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June 16, 2022

By Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

Fashion & Social Impact: Apparel & Dissent


A participant in the Insurrection from Why Rioters Wear Costumes by Vanessa Friedman; January 7, 2021. Jason Andrew/The New York Times.In Scarlett Newman’s Teen Vogue article ‘A Brief History of protest clothing,’ the author poses an interesting question: “What does an activist look like?” This question is related to something we’ve been talking about a lot at Fashion Constellate recently; the ability of apparel (or costume) to communicate an opinion, a stance, or a political persuasion.

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June 04, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

COMPLETELY OBSESSED ~ The Pieces I Cannot Stop Thinking About (#1)


Hey Everyone, Rachel Elspeth here,     I’m the Director of Fashion Constellate’s Fashion History Department. It’s almost the weekend,  and it’s finally spring, and I keep thinking about how long we’ve all been waiting to get dressed up again.      As we all know, appreciating vintage means that time and again we give ourselves the oppurtunity to discover treasure.

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