Penn Museum dresses to impress with ‘The Stories We Wear’
PHILADELPHIA — The Penn Museum unveils fashion and apparel across time with The Stories We Wear. Showcasing 2,500 years of style through approximately 250 remarkable objects, The Stories We Wear invites guests to identify common threads woven into stories that transcend language, culture, and time to connect people through shared experiences. The exhibition opened September 25 and continues through June 12, 2022.Curated by Dr. Lauren Ristvet, Robert H. Dyson Curator in the Penn Museum’s Near East Section; Dr. Sarah Linn, Research Liaison in the Academic Engagement Department; and Dr. Jane Hickman, Consulting Scholar to the Mediterranean Section, the nearly 3,700 square-foot exhibition features a spectacular array of clothing, jewelry, uniforms, regalia and tattoos — powerful expressions of identity that have purpose and meaning.
“Today, we often dismiss fashion as frivolous,” said Lead Curator Dr. Lauren Ristvet. “But our appearances are important. The way we dress communicates who we are and what we do.”
Organized into five themes, The Stories We Wear explores dressing for:
Work and Play, illustrated by a full Philadelphia Eagles uniform loaned to the Museum by former linebacker Connor Barwin and the outfit worn by chaski runners as they delivered important messages in the mountains of Peru during the Inka empire;
Battle, including the armor of Samurai warriors from Japan, with a sword dating to 1603, along with Kiribati weapons from the 1800s;
Performance, highlighting a stunning satin opera robe made in China during the late Qing dynasty; a circa 1938 velvet gown worn by Marian Anderson, on loan from the National Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society; a theatrical ensemble from Thweeney Todd: The Flaming Barber of Fleek Street, on loan from 2018 Drag Queen of the Year Eric Jaffe; and, on loan from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, a James Galanos cocktail dress inspired by Marilyn Monroe;
Ceremony, featuring the circa-1900 traditional wedding attire of a Hopi bride and the headdress of a Buddhist priest from 16th century Nepal;
To Rule, highlighting a Cocle chief’s burial regalia (circa 750-1000) from modern-day Panama, and an intricately beaded 1964 Hubert de Givenchy gown worn by Grace Kelly, Serene High Princess Grace of Monaco, also on loan from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection.
“Museum work is about telling stories, and the timeless stories behind what we wear are fascinating,” said Dr. Christopher Woods, the Williams Director at the Penn Museum. “The Stories We Wear opens up another way to make anthropology and archaeology accessible to all: through style and fashion.”
Visit the website of the Penn Museum and see its dedicated page for The Stories We Wear.