Unlikely Couples: Reading Similarities across the Collection

Explore the often-overlooked relationship between the design of decorative arts and fashion. Patterns, colors, and forms speak to one another in this exhibition of comparatives.

Chair - Dress Chair - Dress (1950/1965)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota


In many ways, “design” is a non-descript word. Liberal in its application, design describes everything from gum wrappers to skyscrapers. Accordingly, museums catalogue objects in manageable categories, aligning objects by form, use, material, and maker. However, when we begin to do deep looking between objects from different disciplines, stylistic tendencies become apparent and the context of objects broaden. These object pairings from the permanent collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design draw relationships between color, pattern, technology, and form. Their similarities and differences remind us that design is inherently interdisciplinary.

Dress - Crock Dress - Crock (1853/1860) by Maker unknown and W.H. Farrar and CoGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

This quaint floral print points to the subtlety of natural dyes. Natural dyes have a difficult time bonding to cotton, making patterns less saturated and prone to fading. The hand-brushed cobalt tulip on this stoneware crock also skims the surface of a translucent salt glaze beneath. Both objects are modest early American forms with modest ornamentation.

Dress, 1853-1860
Maker unknown
cotton percale
Gift of Mrs. Archie J. Hein

Crock, 1850
W.H. Farrar and Co
Gift of Mrs. Karl Elsinger

Vase - Wedding Dress Vase - Wedding Dress (1875/1895) by Makers unknownGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Our current interest in mid-century modernism often makes 19th century design feel overdone. Victoriana’s frippery, however, is a product of accelerating technological advancement. Milk glass, which mimics fine porcelain, became increasingly popular during the 1800s, with forms like this taking on machined perfection. The scalloped edging on this wedding gown’s collar also exhibits technological know-how.

Vase, 1875-1895
Maker unknown
satin glass
Anonymous gift

Wedding dress, 1895
Maker Unknown
silk organdy
Gift of Mary Shepardson

Bowl - Doily Bowl - Doily (1880/1921) by Attributed to Peters and Reed earthenware and Maker unknownGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Despite stridently different theoretical bases, the Arts and Crafts movement sometimes drew inspiration from the sinewy curves of Art Nouveau. This bowl looks as if it sprouted out of the ground, yet it takes on the matte green glaze of arts and crafts pottery. Likewise, twisting vines inform the outer edge of this doily, yet it is a product of home embroidery. DIY experienced a revival during the American Arts and Crafts Movement.

Bowl, 1912-1921
Attributed to Peters and Reed
Gift of Ruth and Doug Crane

Doily, 1880-1915
Maker unknown
hand-embroidered linen
Gift of Robert E. (Lillian) Lehman

Dress - Hatpin Holder Dress - Hatpin Holder (1890/1910) by Carson Pirie Scott & Co. and Maker unknownGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

This dress was purchased at Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in Chicago, located in the famous steel-structured building by renowned architect Louis Sullivan. Early 20th century tendencies towards stylistic complexity are seen in the sashing silk paneled lace. The swooping “Gibson Girl” hairdos of the time supported enormous hats held in place by long decorative pins that were stored in porcelain holders such as this.

Dress, 1909
Store label Carson Pirie Scott & Co.
silk and lace
Gift of Mrs. Folwell Coan

Hatpin holder, 1890-1910
Maker unknown
Gift of Harriet Goldstein

Dress - Decanter Dress - Decanter (1850/1899) by Makers unknownGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Also referred to as Bohemia crystal, fine glasswork from the Czech Republic is part of a centuries-old heritage. The ruby red-stained glass technique on this decanter, invented by Friedrich Egermann during the 1830s, is a product of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s increasing glass export market during the latter half of the 19th century. The brocaded velvet on this bustle dress evokes a similar two-dimensional floral pattern.

Dress, 1890-1899
Maker unknown
silk and velvet brocade
Gift of Charlotte G. Romain

Decanter, 1850-1899
Austro-Hungarian Empire (current Czech Republic)
hand-blown glass
Gift of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein

Dress - Bowl Dress - Bowl (1915/1926)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Teco Pottery, a portmanteau of terra cotta, was the art pottery division of the American Terracotta Tile and Ceramic Company. Often associated with bungalows and Prairie Style architecture, they collaborated with architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. Both the bowl and dress feature solid forms that contrast with curvaceous detailing. The matte green colors are also indicative of early 20th century design.

Dress, 1926
Maker unknown
silk chiffon
Gift of Mrs. C.A.Taney Jr.

Bowl, 1915-1923
Teco Pottery
Museum Purchase

Dress - Vase Dress - Vase (1915/1935)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

This 1920s era dress uses devoré, which is made by printing a pattern on velvet made from a blend of protein fibers (silk) and cellulose fibers (cotton). The pattern is applied with a chemical that eats away the cellulose fiber, leaving the silk behind. There is similarity in scale and form between the rosettes on the dress and ceramic vase; detailed floral prints of the Victorian era transitioned into larger scale, abstract versions like these.

Dress, 1925-1928
Maker unknown
silk devoré
Gift of Annette Garceau

Vase, 1915-1935
Rene Nicole
hand-painted earthenware,
Estate of Eugenie Lamothe

Dress - Vase Dress - Vase (1939/1949)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Referred to simply as “Adrian,” this designer developed clothes with an eye for experimental form. Asymmetry is inherently difficult to do well in both clothing and ceramics, and this dress manages to fit the body without jarring the viewer’s sense of balance. And the wrapping planes of Frankoma’s modest bowl has a dynamic quality that implores you to see it in the round.

Dress, 1942
Gilbert "Adrian"
Gift of the Weyerhauser Estate

Vase, 1939-1949
Gift of Verna Mikesh

Dress - Bowl Dress - Bowl (1930/1949)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

During the 1920s, boyish cropped femininity and art deco geometric style lines had been prominent, but romantic floral chiffons took over many dresses during the 1930s. Clothing was not the only thing to become more flowery. Roseville Pottery, in particular, frequently highlighted creamy blooms that projected out from the surface of dark orange glazed ceramics.

Dress, 1930-1939
Maker unknown
silk chiffon and satin
Gift of Costume Rentals

Bowl, 1930-1949
Roseville Pottery
Gift of Ruth and Doug Crane

Dinnerware - Dress Dinnerware - Dress (1940/1945) by Eva Zeisel for Castleton China Co. and Maker unknownGoldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Renowned industrial designer Eva Zeisel challenged existing forms, often leaving consumers with shapely products that felt true to purpose. Her all-white Museum Dinner Service brought modernism into the home without fracturing our connection with “What was…” The trend towards sleek renewal is also evident in this svelte evening gown. The grid of studs that cover and weigh down this dress evoke both automation and femininity.

Museum Dinner Service, 1945
Eva Zeisel for Castleton China Co.
Gift of Marian Ortolf Bagley

Dress, 1940
Maker unknown
studded rayon
Gift of Vera Bowman

Dresser - Suit Dresser - Suit (1935/1955)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Gilbert Adrian had the keen ability to infuse standard wardrobe items with compelling details. The fine wool used in this suit allows for controlled detailing, such as the tight succession of horizontal pleating. Russel Wright’s 1930s era dresser also accentuates repetition by omitting spacing between drawers and using broad flat wood handles. Visible repetition was a hallmark of streamline design, which was popular during the 1930s.

Skirt suit, 1945-1955
Gilbert “Adrian”
Gift of Helen C. and James Stuart

Dresser, 1935-1939
Russel Wright for Conant Ball
Gift of Jean and Linn Firestone Family

Dress - Casserole Dress - Casserole (1946/1965)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Whimsical or kitsch? The post-war era ushered in significant technological advancements, which led to an extremely competitive and varied market. Shawnee Pottery’s Corn King casserole was a favorite, but when compared to Zeisel’s Museum Dinner Service it is easy to see that consumer tastes ran the gamut. Similar to the Corn King casserole, this summer dress takes a literal approach to evoking its inspiration, with floral petals edging the neckline like a sunflower.

Dress, 1955-1965
The Villager
cotton-polyester blend
Gift of Sharonne Hayes

Corn King casserole, 1946-1954
Shawnee Pottery
Gift of Cori Ander

Bowl - Dress Bowl - Dress (1945/1959)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Nils Kahler was a Danish designer whose work embodied the organic sensibilities of Scandinavian modernism. This early ceramic bowl of his has an uncharacteristic focus on flora. While the scale and color palettes between the two pieces show remarkable resemblance, their similarities in form are also striking. The easy arc of the neckline on Simpson’s dress evokes the wide base of Kahler’s bowl.

Bowl, 1945-1950
Nils Kahler
terra cotta
Museum Purchase

Dress, 1950-1959
Adele Simpson
Gift of Mrs. Maurice M. Melamed

Dress- Bowl Dress- Bowl (1965/1975)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Norwegian glass artist Gro Sommerfeldt used her medium to explore luster, texture, and opacity. This energetic piece traps a cloud-like swirl of golden bubbles within its translucent walls. American designer Chester Weinberg also explores similar attributes through this cocktail dress. Both pieces rely on the kinetic light of everyday life for full engagement with the luster and texture they have achieved.

Dress, 1965-1975
Chester Weinberg
silk brocade
Gift of Dr. Albert J. Greenberg

Bowl, c.1968
Gro Sommerfeldt
hand-blown glass
Gift of Dorothy E. A. Ramsland

Chair - Dress Chair - Dress (1950/1965)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Warren Platner’s wire-framed chair features a balanced blend of rigidity and gentle control; the arcs of the upholstery create wedges of color against a tight repetition of steel rods. The Galanos day dress exhibits similar balance between severity and ease. The color change from cream to gray forms crisp horizontal banding, which is offset by the soft fullness in the blouse and skirt.

Chair, 1965
Warren Platner
welded steel
Gift of Pink Supply Company

Dress, 1950-1959
James Galanos
Gift of Lois Goldberg

Textile - Dish Textile - Dish (1950/1969)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Are those giant amoebas? Nothing confirms my suspicion that unicellular organisms inspired this piece, but mid-century modernist designers like Dan Cooper took textile design in unexpected directions. The experimental nature of 1930s and 1940s floral patterns pushed designers into increasingly wider ranges of subject matter during the 1950s and 1960s. Arguably, this ceramic dish draws more visual associations with biology lab than the garden.

Dan Cooper
screen-print on wool
Museum Collection

Dish, 1950-1969
Gift of Dorothy E.A. Ramsland

Hat - Dinnerware Hat - Dinnerware (1940/1965)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Made in Tennessee, Blue Ridge’s Stanhome Ivy pattern has a crisp contrast that was typical of their dinnerware. They used an underglaze technique that preserved the hand-painted pattern throughout many washings. White was a commonly used accent color during the late 1950s and early 1960s, appearing in button-up blouses, gloves and hats like this.

Hat, 1955-1965
straw, fabric
Gift of Helen Baeder

Dinnerware-Stanhome Ivy pattern, 1940-1957
Blue Ridge Southern Potteries, Inc.
Gift of Linda Webster

Dress- Bowl and Candlesticks Dress- Bowl and Candlesticks (1960/1969)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Flower power was a 1960s era mantra that promoted non-violent protest. Floral illustrations were incorporated into print material and artistic murals to reinforce this message. Daisies were a frequent focus, as they avoided associations with elitism. Despite its grass-roots beginnings, both Red Wing Art Pottery and Bill Blass draw inspiration from this movement to appeal to consumers at mid and upper level economic brackets.

Dress, 1960-1969
Bill Blass
Gift of Mary Ann Wark

Bowl and candlesticks, c.1960
Red Wing Art Pottery
Gift of Janet L. Johnson

Dress - Bowl Dress - Bowl (1950/1975)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Bonnie Cashin’s elegant functionality often incorporates natural fibers, dyed leather, and metal accents. Her work reflects a progressive understanding of modernism and modern women. During the early 1950s, Norwegian ceramicist William Knutzen combined early modernist shapes with rustic clays and glazes. Both Cashin and Knutzen arrive at complex designs that can be mistaken for simple designs or “casual chic.”

Blouse and skirt, 1975
Bonnie Cashin
wool jersey
Gift of Helen and Philip Sills

Bowl, 1950-1955
William Knutzen
Given in honor of Dr. Dorothy Ramsland, Western Gallery, Western Washington University

Dress - Vase Dress - Vase (1958/1968)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Swedish designer Stig Lindberg had a wonderful habit of incorporating folk art-like imagery into regional ceramics. This semi-abstract fishmonger seems to be dressed in wool hand-knits, a traditional technique in Northern Europe. Simpson’s dress, although not actually knit, intends to evoke this heritage as well to appeal to American consumers.

Dress, 1968
Adele Simpson
Gift of Joan Gordon

"Karneval" vase, 1958
Stig Lindberg for Gustavsberg
Gift of Dorothy E. A. Ramsland

Dress - Bowl Dress - Bowl (1975/1986)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Missoni’s legendary knit studio has produced complex jacquard knit garments for decades. This piece is relatively simple, featuring striped wool jersey. The earth tones used in both the dress and bowl are easy on the eyes, and do not vibrate as some high contrast stripes do. The similarity in colors between objects points to wide appreciation for particular combinations within a single era.

Dress, 1975-1985
Rosita & Ottavio Missoni
wool jersey
Museum Collection

Bowl, 1986
Raila Jylha
Gift of the Friends of the Goldstein Gallery Board

Dress - Cup and Saucer Dress - Cup and Saucer (1975/1988)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

The “postmodern”1980s elicited fashions with bright colors and bold contrasts. Black and white was a frequently used color combination in everything from dinnerware to women’s wear. Striping, long associated with inducing headaches or oscillopsia, exaggerates the contrast between black and white through repetition.

Dress, 1975-1985
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Miles (Shirley) Fiterman

Cup and Saucer, 1988
Jack Lenor Larsen for Mikasa Fine China
Gift of Cowtan & Tout, Inc.

Tunic and Skirt - Pitcher Tunic and Skirt - Pitcher (1950/1989)Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota

Issey Miyake’s ability to design clothing that simultaneously speaks to heritage and future makes him one of a kind. His use of undyed natural linen and cotton evoke an integrity that was rare during the 1980s. This Jugtown Pottery pitcher, which was designed 25 years prior to Miyake’s ensemble, is an apt match. Having opened in 1917, Jugtown Pottery has a long tradition of making pieces that emphasize natural coloring and minimal ornamentation.

Tunic and skirt, 1980-1989
Issey Miyake
Gift of Dr. Albert J. Greenberg

Pitcher, 1950-1959
Jugtown Pottery
Gift of Ruth L. Bonde

Credits: Story

Curator: Jean McElvain, Ph. D., Associate Curator

Graphics: Soo Jin Kang, Dora Agee Waller Graphic Design Assistant

Registrar: Eunice Haugen, Registrar and Exhibits Coordinator

Goldstein Museum of Design's programming is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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