By the Johnson County Museum
The Johnson County Museum and Johnson County Community College Fashion Department have joined forces to create a Midcentury Modern holiday party-themed exhibit in the All-Electric House. The exhibit features 1950s-era women’s fashion from the JCCC Historical Fashion Collection that highlight what Johnson County women wore to holiday events of the era. Accessories are featured in the pop-up exhibit space outside of the home. JCCC students are curating the exhibit, which will run Nov. 20 through Jan. 8.
After World War II, many white American families purchased homes in the suburbs. Johnson County’s population exploded during this period. More houses were constructed between 1946 and 1951 than had been built in the previous 120 years of Johnson County history. The nuclear family home was a centerpiece for postwar domestic and social life.
Cocktail parties were common in suburban homes. Housewives carefully curated guest lists and sent invitations via the mail. Guests donned their best attire for these often-formal soirées, including fashionable coats and coordinating cocktail jewelry.
Party dresses were special event attire for women in the 1950s. The dresses frequently came down to the knee and were often made of silks, taffeta, lace, and rich jacquards featuring embellishments like beads, bows, and embroideries. Mid-Century coats were meticulously constructed and coordinated with the rest of a woman’s ensemble. These coats were often accented with decorative buttons, belts, or fur accents to add a glamour to an otherwise simple silhouette. Whether worn for a Christmas cocktail party, a formal Hanukkah gathering, or a New Year’s Eve celebration, the incredible pieces in this exhibit were sure to make a splash.
“This is an exciting opportunity to showcase our Historical Fashion Collection,” said Associate Director of JCCC’s Merchandising & Design Department, Britt Benjamin,. The JCCC Historical Fashion Collection tells a story of fashion history, Kansas City women, and the artistry of apparel design. The collection houses 1,600 apparel pieces dating back to the 1850s. It includes notable American designers like Adrian, Irene, Norman Norell, Pauline Trigerie, Geoffrey Beene, and Bill Blass. French fashions can be found with exquisite designs from Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, and Pierre Cardin. The collection advances the understanding of history through a lens of fashion and serves as a valuable resource to students in the Fashion Merchandising and Design Department.
“Partnerships are important to the work we do at the Johnson County Museum,” said Johnson County Museum Director Mary McMurray. “Not only do partnerships help build community, they also help us interpret the museum’s largest artifact in new ways. I can’t wait to see the fashion and history JCCC’s Fashion Merchandising and Design Department faculty and students bring to the All-Electric House!”
In concert with this display, the museum and JCCC are joining forces for “Mid-Century Holiday Party Fashion,” an evening program on Thursday, Dec. 2. Guests will learn about the Mid-Century cocktail dresses and winter coats in JCCC’s Historical Fashion Collection from students in JCCC Fashion Merchandising & Design. This program is for adults 21 and up. Registration is $6 and includes beer and snacks. Reservations can be made by calling 913-831-3359 or registering online here.