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Formal Fashion

Enchanted Evenings: Formal Wear from the Jeanne D. Tyler Collection

Now Open at The Arms Family Museum

In earliest times, people dressed for protection. As time progressed, themes emerged in the ways people dressed, reflecting gender, age, status, and ceremony. Clothing evolved from a means of protection to a means of communication and became a reflection of the wearer. It could demonstrate the difference between leisure, work, and formal occasions.

The modern idea of fashion dates to the Middle Ages as Europe emerged as a global economic force. The affluent class dictated clothing’s shift from utilitarian to aesthetic, and the lower classes followed trends as much as they were able. The invention of the printing press in the 15th Century made popular modes of dress widespread as information was communicated like never before.

Throughout most of history, clothing has been custom-made for the wearer. In the mid-19th Century, however, advances in mechanization brought ready-made clothing to the masses. This made fashion much more accessible to everyday people. Also, mass print communication informed everyone of the latest fashion trends for every occasion: day or evening, walking or dancing. In the 20th Century, media continued to help dictate fashionable attire in print, then in motion pictures and television. High fashion designers set the standard for the well-to-do, and ready-to-wear manufacturers made those high-style designs accessible to everyone.

The formal styles in the exhibit follow the trends of the period while reflecting the personal styles of the individuals who wore them. Mrs. Tyler has long been a generous supporter of civic, healthcare and educational institutions in the Valley. She has greatly enhanced the Historical Society’s collection of historical artifacts, especially costumes, having donated hundreds of pieces of clothing and accessories spanning the generations of her and her late husband’s families. This exhibit features examples of custom-made evening and formal wear worn by Jeanne Tyler and her family throughout the 20th Century.