Fashion and Museums, an Unconscious and Best-kept Collaboration Part 1

I’m a museum junkie. I grew up being taken to museums, encouraged to learn and appreciate the art, and now I’ve made it a career. Like any child of minority parents- my Salvadorian parents wondered why I would chose such a career path as opposed to becoming a doctor or lawyer – gee, I wonder where I got that interest from (snicker).

One of my favorite things about museums is I go in and come out with a treasure trove of ideas that you have to delve into and sort through. They are a true source of inspiration and an untapped source for creativity for the fashion industry.

What museums do with their collections is gather art pieces and other artifacts of all shapes and sizes to exhibit. Ultimately, they present the public with these collections- unveiling the beauty that lies within each piece. (Just like dressing a tanchi!)

Tanchis are curators of their closets. A reader of this blog, Jessica V., commented how you can’t just go into a store really quickly and except to find something perfect. Tanchis really have to dig and look for pieces, and in that quest they come across various sources and styles, borrowing a little from here and there to make it their own – fab and flattering. The tanchi body has variations of “shapes and sizes” requiring the assembling of a collection to present in public which displays the bella (beautiful) angles of the tanchi.

Marc Jacobs uses art to inspire the collections he designs. Blogger, Le Bori Chef featured one of the collaborations with creative direcor for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and Nipponese artist, Yayoi Kusama, known for her polka dot art.

Louis Vitton, March Jacobs collaboration iwth Yayoi Kusama

Image from

One of my tanchi secrets (go me for telling), is looking to museum employees who work directly day in and out with art collections and exhibitions. My first full-time job was at the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield. Considering I was working in grass roots, organizing and in the middle of the Central Valley, the pressure wasn’t necessarily on wearing the latest on runway. A week after that internship, I came to work at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I looked at my fellow interns and I felt like I had been cheated out of some great advice pre-entering museum work; there’s a different way of dressing here.

I began to notice my own supervisor, Theresa, and inquire about where she found her eclectic pieces that were ideal for this work environment–her go-to place, Last Chance Boutique in Los Angeles. It wasn’t just the interns or Theresa though. Walk into museum administration offices and you’ll see well-dressed professionals with the artsy/eclectic edge. Not bohemian Urban Outfitter styles, not corporate clone Express looks (don’t get me wrong I love these places), but there was something particularly different about the museum professional dresser. I started an album of “street photography” at museums much like fashion blogger Monica Rose did in the streets of Paris, back in March of 2011 or Sophie Mhabille.

I discovered, as I asked around about where to get these threads, that there wasn’t one place to get all these styles. As I inquired with others about where to shop, the answers varied from Kohls, J. Crew, museum gift stores, to boutiques, and thrift stores. Interestingly, the idea of curating, exhibiting, and collecting in a museum had unconsciously made its way to some of the best-dressed fashion patrons I’ve seen. What they have done is build a closet where they wear the pieces assembled from various sources. And like museums, some do it better than others, some are more avant garde then others, and some interact with the “streets” more than others.

Look out for museologist fashionistas (I think I just made up a word). Next post will showcase fashion photos from museum admin in Balboa Park San Diego!



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