The Newport Historical Society this week announced that it has partnered with the Audrain Automobile Museum to offer a joint exhibit focusing on the evolution of fashion from the height of the Gilded Age to the beginning of the modern era. The exhibit is now featured at the Newport Historical Society at 82 Touro Street, and the Audrain Museum at 222 Bellevue Avenue.
In this multi-site exhibit, curator Rebecca Kelly, in collaboration with the Audrain team at that site, examines a previously unknown collection of clothing and accessories belonging to three Vanderbilt women of New York and Newport: Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt and her daughters Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Gladys Moore Vanderbilt Széchényi.
The exhibit focuses on the lives of the women in a changing world, as expressed through their choices for shopping and fashion. It also brings to light American consumerism during the first world war, and the evolution of the industry as women began to enter the workforce and embrace social independence, including the mobility that driving provided.
The exhibit also focuses on the interlocking trades, and avenues for creativity that supplied American women with the opportunity to be fashionable. Designers, dressers, fabric and lace makers and entrepreneurs contributed to what was, and in many ways still is, an elaborate economic web. Women played a role here, at all walks of life, both as producers and consumers.
The first segment of the exhibit, The World in Motion: Vanderbilt Style, is at the NHS. Here, the focus is on Alice Vanderbilt and her daughters in the turn of the twentieth century.
In Women Take the Wheel: Fashion, Modernity, and the Automobile at the Audrain, curator David de Muzio and the Audrain team enhance the story of early 20th century shopping at local, Newport retailers with early automobiles with Newport history. Here, the story includes women driving and being driven, and the effect automobiles had on women’s fashion.
The twelve automobiles on view will include a 1904 Mercedes 30 hp, Elizabeth Cunningham’s 1910 Rauch & Lang electric, Doris Duke’s 1938 Packard Twelve Landaulet, and Countess Széchényi’s 1941 Cadillac Series 67 Fleetwood limousine.