Who Am I?
Rounding the corner towards two years in Nevada, I have noticed a couple things.
1) Most people don’t observe the fashion rules of the seasons. White is worn year-round and shorts are a sartorial staple. Additionally, “rhinestone”-studded flip-flops qualify as formal wear.
2) I like working with graduate students, undergrads and colleagues. I have a crop of eager, funny, somewhat daunted, but certainly curious grad students. They like 20th century American material culture, and I like teaching it to them.
In Spring 2012, my “Clothing and American Culture” class (H. 492/787) learned of the social, cultural, and economic trends that shaped—and shape—fashion trends. We talked about turn-of-the-century golfwear, gussets, and the difficulty of defining “sportswear.” We’ve read “real” fashion history—the kind of scholarship that is much more than the story of a garment.
I’ve lectured and I’ve shown. We took trips to the rhinestone (no quotation marks there) infused Liberace collection and the incredible archive of rock ’n’ roll history assembled at the Hard Rock Hotel by Warrick Stone.
The students researched in archives around the city and region. Their topics ranged from the over-the-top costumes worn for Helldorado Days to the business practices of Susie Cheesecheese, the place to shop in Vegas in the 70s. Frequented by Cher, Charro and Stevie Nicks, the shop is named for a character in a Frank Zappa song and gets a mention in <em> Casino </em> by the avid shopper played by Sharron Stone. I would die for that chinchilla coat. Oh yeah, the furrier is local, and a genius.
And it’s a good thing they did the work. This research served as the basis for Vegas Style an exhibition curated, installed, marketed and promoted by students in my Methods of Public History class (H. 750).
Vegas Style opened in November 2012 and runs through June at the Nevada State Museum Las Vegas.