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A raiment roundup

Group gathers at Newhall museum to discuss fashions throughout history

Posted: March 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Cowboy-clad John Bertram, a William S. Hart Museum volunteer, points out items of interest for costume conference speaker Theodora Zourkas, of Australia, at the museum in Newhall.

Curators at the William S. Hart Museum challenged fashion experts to distinguish between fake film wardrobe and antique vintage clothing this weekend in what they called the “real from reel” test.

They teamed up with their counterparts at the National History Museum of Los Angeles and concocted a scheme to display real artifacts next to “film reel” wardrobe as a way of promoting a two-day international conference on costumes.

They invited costume curators from around the world and residents of the Santa Clarita Valley — many of whom work in the film industry — to take the challenge.

More then two dozen conference attendees Saturday and Sunday were invited, for example, to choose between two helmets — a rustic red fireman’s helmet and a black Keystone Cops helmet — to find the real deal.

The latter was the fake, on loan for the weekend from the National History Museum.

“We have a r-e-a-l fireman helmet next to a r-e-e-l Keystone cop helmet and we asked them, ‘Which one do you think it real?,’” said Ayesha Saletore, who helped coordinate the challenge.

“Most people were able to figure it out,” she said.

Theodora Zourkas, a master’s student at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, was one of those who traveled a long way to attend the conference.

An Australian of Greek heritage, Zourkas gave a talk at the museum Saturday titled: “Fashioning Greek Identity: Representing ‘Greekness’ in the 19th Century.”

Wardrobe images most people associate as being uniquely Greek, she said, are often rooted in the attire associated with ancient Greece.

“One of the things I talked about was the cultural dress worn by women in the Miss Universe pageant,” she said. “Since 2001, all of the Greek contestants wore costumes based in ancient Greek culture. Only one, in 2003, wore a Greek costume not from that time.”

Zourkas said she took the “real from reel” challenge and even got the trick question — a pair of pants crafted by Native Americans, which made it “real,” and also worn in a William S. Hart movie, making it “reel” attire as well.

Conference coordinators Margi Bertram, who serves as administrator of the Hart Museum, and Beth Werling, collections manager for the history department of the National History Museum, said they had no idea their conference would attract international interest as far away as Australia.

The conference provided a platform for costume curators eager to share their particular passions and special interests.
Barbara Drury, a student at the University of Idaho, gave a talk Saturday titled, “The Mysterious Mr. Rouff,” who designed au couture fashions for wealthy women in Paris at the end of the 19th century.

“He felt that the dress should be ornamental and that it should be elegant and chic,” she said, adding “But no one ever heard about him.”

However, because of the two-day costume conference and her featured talk, some now have heard of Rouff.

Other talks at the conference included “The Fashionable Woman: A Comparison of Costumes Worn for Performances of (Richard Brinsley) Sheridan’s ‘The School for Scandal’” and “Saris to Skirts: Negotiating National Identity Through Costume.”


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