20th and 21st Century Fashion Accessories

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fashion Highlights from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fashionable Accessories
Since the founding of the department in 1930, the Museum's Textile and Fashion Arts Collection has always encompassed hats, shoes, stockings, fans, parasols, and a great variety of fashionable accessories. The Museum featured the richness of the collection in exhibitions such as Walk This Way (2007-8) and The Art of the Fan (1988).

Luna moth fan
George Keiswetter
1890

With the advent of industrial production and new advances in printing technology, fans became more widely available in the nineteenth century. In a melding of mechanization and handcraft, this striking luna moth fan was made by a local manufacturer in East Braintree, Massachusetts and then hand painted by American artist George Keiswetter. The luna moth, and other winged insects, were popular Art Nouveau motifs, and the insects body and wings have been cunningly entwined with the fan’s form. This is one of over one thousand fans donated by collector Esther Oldham in 1976.

Pair of women's stockings
1910 - 1917

As hemlines rose in the later 1910s and 1920s, and stockings became more visible, women’s stockings became ever more inventive. These woman's machine-knit stockings are printed with the trompe l’eoeil design of a boot with its front lacing. Dating to pre-World War I era, they were manufactured in the German city of Chemnitz, Saxony, where the highest quality hosiery was produced.

Pair of woman's shoes
1910 - 1920

Similar to the flowering of creativity in stocking design in the 1920s, as hemlines rose, women’s shoes witnessed a renewed interest in more striking shoe design. This pair of American-made women's shoes is an excellent example of fancy evening footwear from the 1910s, featuring ornate button closures, gold-toned leather, and fine glass bead embroidery.

Woman's hat
Jeanne Lanvin
1915

Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) started her career as a milliner and hat designing remained an important division of her couture business throughout her career. Much like women’s riding attire, which looked to men’s tailoring for inspiration, this woman’s riding hat references men’s millinery, with the added ostrich plumes adding a touch of fanciful adornment.

Woman's hat
Jeanne Lanvin
1915

Before becoming well-known for her adult fashions, Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) achieved recognition designing both hats and children’s fashions. The charming confections she invented for her younger sister, and then young daughter, Marie Blanche, caught the eye of the fashionable elite. This tricorne hat, with its fanciful green and pink glass beaded appliquéd flower, is visually linked to the ebullient decoration she used on frocks designed for young girls

Man's top hat
1915 - 1930

Although a required part of a man’s wardrobe in the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century, the top hat had become associated primarily with formal evening wear. The form did change over time, reaching new heights with the 1860s “stovepipe” hats and generally settling into a more practical height in the later nineteenth century. This French top hat is made of a silk plush with a long nap that was brushed to mimic the beaver fur hats of the past.

Woman's printed stocking
1910 - 1930

As hemlines rose in the later 1910s and 1920s, and stockings became more visible, women’s stockings became ever more inventive. These woman's machine-knit stockings are printed fanciful red, yellow, green and blue butterflies and cherries. Dating to pre-World War I era, they were manufactured in the German city of Chemnitz, Saxony, where the highest quality hosiery was produced.

Woman's hat and scarf set
1925

The 1920s cloche hat closely followed the form of the woman’s head, reflecting the then modern bob hairstyle and continuing the geometry of the Art Deco silhouette - topping the tubular flapper dress with an abstract sphere. This cloche and matching scarf also feature a bold modernist print that captures the youthful vivacity and energy of 1920s design.

Woman's stocking
1910 - 1930

The youthful energy and verve that marked the 1920s are captured in this pair of striking woman’s stockings, which are printed with a dramatic yellow zig-zag and stepped edges against a black ground. The stockings are one of a large collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that were manufactured in the German city of Chemnitz, Saxony, where the highest quality of hosiery was produced.

Woman's purse
1920 - 1929

Whiting & Davis Co started as Wade, Davis & Co, a silver jewelry designer. In 1896 Charles Whiting partnered with Edward Davis to transform metal mesh into fashion. Known particularly for their mesh handbags, this 1928 example is enameled in an Art Deco design that reflects the contemporary interest in geometry and abstraction.

Woman's vanity case
1920 - 1929

Novelty celluloid vanity cases were used in the 1920s for evening occasions when large purses would have been too cumbersome. Small and streamlined in form, often decorated with paste diamante in Art Deco patterns, they relate to the sleek "Flapper" dresses of the period. These tiny reticules were often made of celluloid, in imitation of costly tortoiseshell, and decorated with paste diamonds in Art Deco motifs, with just enough room inside for lipstick, makeup and a mirror. Set on fringed silk cords, these vanity cases could be easily wrapped around the wrist while dancing the Charleston, for example, and would echo the exuberant movement of the fringes and beads on the wearer's dress.

Pair of woman's shoes
1940 - 1949

While women's platform shoes have a long history, the style was revived in the World War II era. Wartime restrictions resulted in the inventive use of materials such as cork to raise shoes to ever higher heights. This pair of American shoes feature a 4 1/2 inch heel.

Woman's scarf: Outdoor Girl
1940 - 1949

Given the limits on their wardrobes during World War II, British women were eager to augment their existing ensembles. Square scarves provided an easy way to spruce up a look, and could have an almost "magical" transformative power for the clothes-deprived. Scarves also provided the additional benefits of holding back hair for work in factories and camouflaging a shortage of shampoo. This scarf depicts women engaged in leisure activities and sports, and is an image of perseverance in the face of adversity and hardship during war.

Pair of woman's shoes
1950 - 1959

Although unlabelled, these 1950s "boomerang" shoes reflect the innovative cantilevered experimentation pioneered by designers such as Salvatore Ferragamo in Italy.

Pair of shoes
1965

Paraphernalia, housed in architect Ulrich Franzen’s minimalist glass and steel creation at Sixty-seventh Street in New York City, showcased the best of the mod styles by British designers. It also fostered home grown talent like young American designers Betsey Johson, Joel Schumacher, Deanna Littell, and Michael Mott. These colorful shoes in day-glo colors are typical of the ephemeral of-the-moment styles vital to the boutique’s ethos.

Sunglasses
1960 - 1969

Tinted protective spectacles were made in Europe as early as the 17th century; however, sunglasses did not become bonafide fashion items until the early 20th century when Hollywood stars began to be photographed wearing them at sporting events and leisure activities. The look of sunglasses, like that of clothing, changed according to popular tastes and this pair exemplifies the "mod" look of the 1960s.

Woman's necklace
Pierre Cardin
1971

During the 1960s, Pierre Cardin rose to prominence as one of the most innovative and influential designers of the French couture. After working for the houses of Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior, Cardin opened his own house in 1950. In the 1960s, when the cost of haute couture was rising and the number of wealthy clients diminishing, Cardin - along with André Courrèges, Yves Saint Laurent, Emmanuel Ungaro, and Paco Rabanne - was instrumental in changing the direction of French couture by designing clothes for the rising teenage market and creating a more accessible ready-to-wear line. The bold geometry and reflective surfaces of this necklace correspond to the then-popular fascination with Op Art and space travel.

Pair of woman's platform shoes
1970 - 1979

The 1970s hippie era is marked by a youthful and energetic embracing of vintage clothing and historic styles. These black velvet shoes with oversized buckles combine the then-popular platform shoe with historicizing influences. These were exhibited in Museum of Fine Art’s Hippie Chic exhibition in Torf Gallery in 2013.

Woman's shoes
1965 - 1968

After starting his career as a shoemaker in Hollywood, Salvatore Ferragamo returned to his native Italy and founded his eponymous firm in Florence, which is still in business today. Renowned for his high quality craftsmanship and innovative design, Ferragamo left an indelible mark on shoe and accessory design, evident in the innovative mix of materials and methods, including cotton netting, gilt leather, and brass, in this pair of woman’s shoes.

Handbag
1990

This reflective metal-sided handbag captures the sleek minimalism of early 1990s design. After starting his career as a shoemaker in Hollywood, Salvatore Ferragamo returned to his native Italy and founded his eponymous firm in Florence, which is still in business today. The firm is renowned for high quality craftsmanship in accessories that are innovative in both design and materials, as with the metal of this handbag – a material more commonly used for clutches or minaudières.

Minaudière
Elsa Peretti
2011

Designed by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co., this minaudières (small handbag) illustrates the close relationship between dress and jewelry. Before the artist began her exclusive relationship with Tiffany in 1974, she created jewelry for Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio di Sant'Angelo, and Halston. Today she is known largely for having reintroduced silver into high style jewelry as well as for her accessories made of precious materials. More recently, she designed a series of small purses made largely of woven bamboo using traditional Japanese forms and techniques.

Light bulb shoes
2008

Originally designed for the Chanel pre-Fall 2008 collection, the heels of the shoes contained a small LCD light bulb. Karl Lagerfeld’s shoes announce the future integration of fashion and technology, which is increasingly common in today’s fashion industry.

Pair of shoes
Iris Van Herpen
2014

United Nude was founded in 2003 by Dutch architect Rem D Koolhaas (nephew of renowned architect Rem Koolhaas) and seventh generation British shoemaker Galahad Clark. Known for clarity, elegance and innovation, United Nude has positioned itself at the intersection of design and fashion. The “Synesthesia” shoe is part of an ongoing collaboration with Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen.

Highrise Shoes
2015

Founded by Dutch architect Rem D. Koolhaas (nephew of architect Rem Koolhaas) and seventh-generation British shoemaker Galahad Clark, United Nude actively seeks and utilizes new technologies to push the aesthetic boundaries of shoe design and creation. Featured in the MFA’s “#techstyle” exhibition in 2016, These cage-like shoes are intended to resemble a 1:500-scale model of a building (hence the name Highrise). Created as part of an initiative to explore the futuristic capabilities of 3D printing, they were crafted using laser sintering, an additive process that uses a laser to bind together layer after layer of synthetic powders to create a solid form.

More to discover

See more from the MFA's collection by viewing our exhibitions in 20th Century Fashion, 21st Century Fashion, Fashion Photography, and Fashion Through the Ages.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Credits: Story

Cover image: Salvatore Ferragamo, 1965–68. Woman's shoes. Cotton netting and embroidery with gilt leather and metal closure, and gilt leather heel and leather sole. 1980.96. Gift of Charlotte M. Beers. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In order:
Gwenn Pennington, Woman's hat, late 20th century. Feathers (peacock?); tulle; metal; cotton knit; velvet. 2009.4218. Gift of Yolanda of Yolanda Enterprises Inc. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Folding fan, about 1905. Silk satin leaf painted in watercolor, embroidered with sequins; ivory sticks; steel rivet and ring. 53.2179. Gift of H. Wade White. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Chemnitz, Pair of women's stockings, about 1910–7. Cotton printed. 69.685a b. The Arthur Warren Rayner Hosiery Collection, Gift of Mrs. Frank K. Idell. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Pair of woman's shoes, 1910–20. Leather; beads; rhinestones. 2010.684.1 2. Gift of Irene Konefal in memory of Genevieve and Edmund Konefal. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Jeanne Lanvin, Woman's hat, 1915. Rayon, ostrich feathers, buckram. 1979.198. Gift of Miss Agnes Mongan. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Jeanne Lanvin, Woman's hat, about 1915. Silk trimmed with straw, bead appliqué. 1990.280. Seth K. Sweetser Fund. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Man's top hat, 1915–30. Silk. 1979.393. Bequest of Dana Pond. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Woman's printed stocking, 1910–30. Cotton knit. 69.1347. The Arthur Warren Rayner Hosiery Collection, Gift of Mrs. Frank K. Idell. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Feather brisé fan, 1915–25. Dyed feathers with irregular markings; reformed protein blades. 50.3166. Gift of Mrs. J. D. Cameron Bradley. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Woman's hat and scarf set, 1925. Printed silk plain weave (chiffon); silk thread fringe. 2008.720.1 2. Gift of Francisca Smith Clark. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Chemnitz, Woman's stocking, about 1910–30. Cotton knit. 69.1346. The Arthur Warren Rayner Hosiery Collection, Gift of Mrs. Frank K. Idell. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Whiting & Davis Co., Woman's purse, 1920s. Metal. 2010.1376. Gift of Jacqueline Loewe Fowler. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Woman's vanity case, late 1920s. Celluloid, rhinestones, silk net, plaited cotton. 2003.854. Anonymous gift. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Pair of woman's shoes, 1940s. Suede and leather. 2009.2361.1-2. Gift of Reva Ostrow. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Courtier, Woman's scarf: Outdoor Girl, 1940s. Rayon, printed. 2011.2265. Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Lilly Daché, Woman's hat, American, 1947–53. Fur felt, grosgrain ribbon, pheasant feathers. 2007.303. Gift of Susan Ward in memory of Filene's. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Pair of woman's shoes, 1950s. Silk, synthetic metallic, and faux wood. 2005.1274.1 2. Gift of Stewart Shillito Maxwell, Jr. in memory of his mother Marilyn M. Maxwell. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Paraphernalia, Pair of shoes, about 1965. Leather. 1992.587a b. Gift of Dorothy S. Zinburg. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Sunglasses, 1960s. Plastic, glass lenses. 2005.185. Gift of Susan Ward. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Pierre Cardin, Woman's necklace, 1971. Chrome and acrylic. 2010.304. Gift of Karen and Michael Rotenberg. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Pair of woman's platform shoes, 1970s. Cotton (?) velvet; silver. 2010.1387.1 2. Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Salvatore Ferragamo, 1965–68. Woman's shoes. Cotton netting and embroidery with gilt leather and metal closure, and gilt leather heel and leather sole. 1980.96. Gift of Charlotte M. Beers. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Salvatore Ferragamo, Inc, Handbag, about 1990. 2013.1961. Gift of Pat and Arthur Stavaridis. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tabi boots

Vivienne Westwood shoes

Elsa Peretti, Watanabe Chikusei, Minaudière, about 2011. Platinum lacquered bamboo, silver, plain weave fabric, and silk. 2012.62. Anonymous gift. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Miu Miu shoes

Iris van Herpen, “Synesthesia" Shoes, 2014. Kid leather, metallicized. 2015.988.1. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

United Nude, Highrise Shoes, 2015. 3D printed, synthetic. 2016.83.1. Arthur Tracy Cabot Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Credits: All media
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