'Fashioning San Francisco' de Young exhibit transports visitors to galas of past century

ByKarina Nova and Tim Didion KGO logo
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
de Young exhibit transports visitors to SF galas through fashion
The "Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style" exhibit at the de Young Museum follows the evolution of high fashion in the city.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Strolling past the exotic gowns at San Francisco's de Young Museum could give you visions of opening nights and exclusive galas. And maybe the kinds of parties that always seem a dream away. But like Cinderella, this is a chance to join the ball.

"We do trace where the gowns and clothes were worn, who wore them, and we try to evoke as much as we can with each outfit," said curator Laura Camerlengo.

The exhibit is called "Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style." Camerlengo says it follows the evolution of high fashion in the city, from classic to chaotic.

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"So it's a great opportunity to trace the history of the city. This dress was designed in fall 1946, and it was one of the first imports from Paris after World War II," said Camerlengo, pointing to a simple black above the knee dress. "But then we also have examples in this section that show the youth quake of the 1960s, short mini dresses, lots of sequins -- very much energetic. And then, I would say as we move into the 1970s, 80s and 90s, we enter more of an 'anything goes.'"

And to enjoy that liberating feeling for yourself, all you have to do is strike a pose and check out your reflection in an augmented reality mirror that slips visitors into gowns for a virtual night out. Rajni Jacques is with the social media company Snapchat, which created the interactive installation.

"And this is something that, you know, most people would not be able to try on like. And so, we're giving you the opportunity to kind of go back to the 1970s and try on a Valentino ,you know, velvety down," she said modeling an Yves Saint Laurent.

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And from shoes to sashes, it's a whirl through the decades and across the virtual dance floor. While many of the gowns were donated by matrons of San Francisco society, curators are hoping the exhibit will both share the wealth and a bit of the fashion magic with visitors from all walks of life.

"I hope they have a great sense of fun," said Camerlengo. "I hope visitors come through and feel that this exhibition is just a great celebration of San Francisco, our museums and their collection."

"Fashioning San Francisco" is open and runs through the middle of August.

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