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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

In Fashion

I’m proud to say that I know more about fashion and fabric than most men. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress who made custom wedding dresses for fashionable New Yorkers in the 1930s and ‘40s on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. She passed her craft on to my mother who made many of her and my sister’s clothes when we were growing up.

My wife is an accomplished quilter and knitter. Our daughter has a degree in fashion design which she parlayed into a career that began with her designing young boy’s clothes for a major department store chain and culminated in her having owned two women’s boutiques in western Pennsylvania.

Her current endeavor, The Loveliest Coffee and Clothes has been recognized as the most Instagramed store in town.

As a result of being surrounded by all things related to textiles for most of my life, I’m keenly aware of opportunities that present themselves from time to time in the field of fashion.

One such opportunity, and one of the best kept secrets in the western Pennsylvania/northeast Ohio area is the Kent State Museum which is devoted primarily to fashion.

Opened to the public in October 1985, the Kent State University Museum was founded with an initial contribution from New York dress manufacturers Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rodgers. Their gift included 4,000 costumes and accessories, nearly 1,000 pieces of decorative art and a 5,000-volume reference library.

In the 1960s, Shannon Rodgers began collecting what is now considered one of the finest period costume collections in the United States, today totaling more than 40,000 pieces. The Tarter/Miller collection of some 10,000 pieces of glass formed the second major gift to the Museum. Together with the other decorative arts collected by Rodgers and Silverman, the museum holds one of the most comprehensive teaching collections of fashionable design from the 18th century to the present.

The museum is also home to the Katharine Hepburn's personal collection of film, stage and television costumes, as well as clothes worn by her for publicity purposes.

Some of the current exhibits at the museum feature Ohio Quilts; Culture/Counterculture: Fashions of the 1960s and 70s; and Wearing Justice, a display featuring the designs of faculty and students that uses fashion to create a dialogue about war and peace, political discourse, conflict resolution and social justice today.

Located in Kent, OH the museum is less than 90 minutes from Pittsburgh, very convenient to the Cleveland/Akron area and a wonderful destination for a day trip that includes lunch and a visit to the museum.

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