The Intertwined Designs of Virginia James Stellmacher

March 13 - November 10, 2019

Mint Museum Randolph


Selected costume renderings and fashion sketches by Virginia James Stellmacher from The Mint Museum Archives.

Virginia James Stellmacher (1926-2006) graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with degrees in English and theatre in 1947, and promptly enrolled in a two-year course of fashion and costume design studies at the New York Fashion Academy. Upon graduating with honors, she accepted a fellowship at Indiana University and returned to Bloomington to pursue a Master’s Degree in costume design, and teach costume design courses in the Department of Theatre. Following the year in Indiana, Stellmacher went back to New York to work at the Helene Pons Studio as a theatrical costume designer, and designed Broadway shows and Metropolitan Opera Company productions. She ultimately left New York for the Midwest in the early 1950s, and shifted to a career in television broadcasting.

Fortunately for The Mint Museum, Stellmacher saved her design drawings and included them in her 1998 donation of jewelry, garments, accessories, and fashion books. The costume renderings, studies, and design sketches constitute the Virginia James Collection, one of many hidden treasures in The Mint Museum Archives.

No longer hidden, these drawings display Stellmacher’s mastery of illustration in the detailed rendering of her whimsical costume designs, and in the precision of her contemporary fashion sketches.