Tim Gunn is an academic, bestselling author and pop culture icon. He won an Emmy Award for his role as host of “Project Runway.” He wrote this short essay on the difference between fashion and clothes for the Library of Congress Magazine's fashion issue.
Harper’s Bazar magazine opened up a wide world for the modern woman of 1902, including a large foldout sheet of sewing patterns for the thrifty homemaker. When unfolded, the sheet revealed a bewildering tangle of dots, dashes, lines, X’s and ovals that crisscrossed a total of 1,134 square inches of paper in an unholy mess covering both front and back. The marks delineated patterns for 60 articles of clothing.
When unfolded, the sheet reveals a bewildering tangle of dots, dashes, lines, X’s and ovals that crisscross a total of 1,134 square inches of paper in an unholy mess covering both front and back. The marks delineate patterns for a whopping 60 different component parts of articles of clothing.
Fashion has always been an avenue for reference and reinvention, expressing societal viewpoints and political movements through fabric and adornment. As the Library’s collections demonstrate, this was especially true for 20th-century fashion in the U.S. The story of American style is depicted in the Library’s century-old newspapers and magazines; in department store catalogs and home-sewing pattern books; in vintage lithographs and high-gloss photography.
On May 15, 1962, the British songwriting team of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley were up-by-the-bootstraps types, just hitting their 30s, and would become big stars. On that day, they scratched out what would become perhaps their most influential hit, a deceptively simple song called "Feeling Good." Nina Simone would make it her anthem in 1965, and Michael Bublé would have a worldwide hit with it nearly three decades later. The Library's Bricusse collection preserves that moment of creation in one of his meticulously kept notebooks.
After Orville Wright's death in 1948, his estate donated a vast collection of his papers to the Library, including more than 300 glass plate and nitrate negatives of photographs taken (mostly) by the brothers between 1897 and 1928; images that provide an important and fascinating record of their home lives and of their attempts to fly. His "success house," Hawthorn Hill, is in many of these photos and is today a museum.
When the San Francisco Opera debuted “Doctor Atomic,” an opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams based on physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the test of the first atomic bomb, its first lines contained a scientific error. Marvin L. Cohen, president of the American Physical Society, was in the audience and caught it immediately. Here's how he and Adams changed it.
We're down to the college football national championship game next week and the NFL playoff are just around the corner. It's a perfect time to check in with "Football Nation" author Susan Reyburn as she chooses favorite items from the Library's collections. This article is slightly adapted from the January-February issue of the Library of Congress Magazine.
Two Black seamstresses have left their mark on White House fashion history, as Elizabeth Keckley and Ann Lowe designed dresses for two of the nation’s most famous first ladies, Mary Todd Lincoln and Jacqueline Kennedy, respectively. Both designers developed their craft despite the brutal influences of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. This piece tells their stories.
Carl Sagan's dreams of space flight took root as a child as some of his enthusiastic artwork shows, particularly a drawing he called “The Evolution of Interstellar Flight.” It's in the Library's Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive, composed of more than 595,000 items from throughout the astrophysicist's life.