Beads have been used to enliven fashion designs since ancient times. Originally restricted to the wardrobes of aristocrats and made of precious materials, beads indicated wealth and status in numerous cultures throughout the globe. Sometimes beadwork was employed on garments to convey rank, spiritual significance, or protection of the wearer. Colorful and sparkling beads appeared on articles of clothing, ceremonial dress, ritual masks, and everyday objects.
And the Bead Goes On features twentieth and twenty-first century women’s fashions which display inventive beadwork embroidery. This seemingly modern surface decoration, the variety of bead materials and shapes, and the basic sewing techniques used to embellish the fashions on view were developed in Paris workshops in the eighteenth century. Talented designers and skillful artisans collaborate to achieve dazzling fashions that are comfortable and durable. Glass beads, metallic sequins, metal filigree beads, faux pearls, and faceted crystal rhinestones hand-sewn onto the cloth impart beauty, opulence, and artful originality.
Fashion was democratized in the 1960s, and previously exclusive beaded style became available to all. The fashion industry today, while still centered in Paris, includes major designers from India, Lebanon, and Nigeria, and elsewhere. And the Bead Goes On presents evening gowns, cocktail dresses, and ensembles from the museum’s Fashion Collection, complemented with exciting new works on loan from contemporary designers. Designer names featured in the exhibition include Halston, Bob Mackie, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Lisa Folawiyo, and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin.