Valerie Steele’s First Blog Entry

In BlogOctober 19th, 2009

My friends have been urging me to start writing a blog, so here goes….

Last Friday, I went down to Philadelphia to see the exhibition Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850-1925 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, it featured about 30 dresses, plus accessories and visual materials, such as film clips courtesy of the Gaumont Pathé Archives and the WPA Film Library.  There were many covetable items, including an 1850s evening dress with a saucy swing design, said to be after Watteau (although surely The Swing was by Fragonard?); an 1886 dress that had belonged to Mrs. Ernest Fenollosa when her husband was director of the Imperial Museum in Tokyo (this is exactly the time that ruling-class Japanese women started to wear western fashions); a beautiful white velvet dress with mink trim and Ottoman-inspired bead embroideries by the Callot Sisters; a rare Yteb dress (by George Hoyningen-Huene’s sister, Betty); and a Poiret that was the gift of Vera White (she and her husband donated the gorgeous Matisse Yellow Odalisque in a neighboring gallery).  Shopping in Paris was simply but elegantly displayed with dresses mounted on period Kyoto mannequins with paper wigs. Upstairs was another small exhibition, Inspiring Fashion: Gifts from Designers Honoring Tom Marotta, which included mostly recent looks by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Zac Posen, Valentino, etc. It would have been nice to know how the dresses had been chosen.

I continued down from Philadelphia to Washington D.C., where I went to the opening of the exhibition Contemporary Japanese Fashion: The Mary Baskett Collection at the Textile Museum. Mary was there to see the display of about 40 looks by her three favorite designers — Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons — dating from the late 1970s to the present. The exhibition was organized by guest curator, Cynthia Amnéus.

The following day was devoted to a fascinating symposium, From Kimono to Couture: The Evolution of Japanese Fashion, with great speakers such as Liza Dalby (author of Kimono: Fashioning Culture and Geisha) who spoke about the relationship between kimono and geisha, and Yuniya Kawamura (author of The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion) who spoke about contemporary Japanese subcultural styles. Yuni is contributing a chapter to the book that will accompany my upcoming MFIT exhibition, Japan Fashion Now.

Japan Fashion Now opens in September 2010, so I am really busy writing the book and finding the right clothes to include in the exhibition. Yuni is helping me find some great subcultural styles, since I want to go beyond high fashion  to include street style. Of course, I’m also including Mary’s Big Three, as well as Junya Watanabe, Tao Kurihara, Jun Takahashi of Undercover, Sacai, Number (N)ine, etc., etc. But I’m equally interested in the clothing worn by gothic lolitas, the members of speed tribes, and all the pink highly decorated kawaii styles.

More to come…


  • 1. Sir Richard  |  October 20th, 2009 at 7:27 am


    You never cease to amaze me with all the wonderful things you do. It was a great pleasure seeing you at Narciso Rodriguez during fashion week and I hope to see you at FIT or out and about again soon!

    Much admiration,

  • 2. Heather Vaughan  |  October 20th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Great blog Dr. Steele – keep it up! I’ll be in Philadelphia soon and can’t wait to see the exhibit there. I’ve never seen a Yteb dress anywhere so it’s high on my list!


  • 3. Heidi  |  October 20th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I must say I’m a wee bit giddy at the prospect of a book and exhibit about Japanese fashion, especially the underground fashion cultures. I hope I can get to New York next year!

  • 4. rainer  |  October 29th, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    exciting new! Is there a catalogue for Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850-1925.

  • 5. Ingrid Mida  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Your friends were smart to encourage you to start a blog. Your post makes me want to go to Philadelphia to see the exhibition on Shopping in Paris. I’ll have to find out more.
    I look forward to your future posts!

  • 6. Sister Wolf  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I can’t wait to see the gothic lolitas!

  • 7. Jenna Rossi-Camus  |  November 5th, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Hello Valerie, I am thrilled that you have taken up blogging, and as a student of Fashion Curating at the London College of Fashion, I will be sure to follow your posts. I am always inspired by your writings and exhibitions and hope to make your acquaintance in the near future. I am currently preparing my dissertation on Fashion Cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, and devising an hypothetical proposal which sets the exhibit at FIT. I am a New Yorker, heading home this winter for a few weeks and look forward as always to a visit to the Museum, and its perennially engaging fashion exhibits. Very best regards, Jenna

  • 8. Katherine  |  April 18th, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I can’t help but wonder if you’ll be coming to Japan anytime soon. I would love to sit and talk over tea if you ever have the time…

  • 9. Anna  |  September 27th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I discovered your work very recently but i’m gettin’ amazed.

    I think there should be a place to write some article about you in our lifestyle/fashion section.



Please Leave a Comment


Required, hidden

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed