Exhibit brings a new dimension to the Mob Museum
The Mob Museum is roaring with its new exhibit, featuring women’s fashions and accessories from the Jazz Age.
Geoff Schumacher, director of content for the museum, wanted to include women in the museum’s narrative. It occurred to him that the flappers of the Roaring ’20s, who frequented the speakeasies, often socialized alongside mobsters, and that fashions of the ’20s could be used as a vehicle for integrating women into the exhibits.
Dr. Deirdre Clemente, associate director of the public history program at UNLV, is an expert on fashion from that era. A casual remark of Schumacher’s idea to Clemente led to Ready to Roar: Women’s Eveningwear in the Prohibition Era, now on display at the museum.
Ready to Roar is a collaborative project, curated and installed by Clemente’s graduate students under the supervision and mentorship of Mob Museum professionals Ashley Miller, Carolyn Fisher and Schumacher. The Clark County Museum, Nevada State Museum, Death Valley National Park, Spring Mountain Ranch and various private donors provided exhibit items. A grant from Nevada Humanities also contributed to the effort.
At the opening, held Nov. 18, student curators Evan Casey and Shae Cox mentioned that one goal was to challenge modern-era understandings that women of the ’20s were only flappers. Women of the ’20s were independent, athletic, and mobile. They played sports, danced and used public transportation to go back and forth to work, and they needed clothing that allowed for freedom of motion. The previous generation’s stiff, S-curve dresses gave way to a relaxed, tubular silhouette with slightly shortened hems.
The exhibit features beaded evening dresses in pastel gray, pink and muted corals that were made from silks imported from Japan, China and Italy. The fabric was cut on the bias and often draped, similar to a kimono, reflecting an interest in Far Eastern cultures. Accessories include beaded handbags, a one-inch square metallic coin purse and whimsical bags in the shape of an automobile. A strong Egyptian influence, resulting from the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in that decade, is also present.
The items on exhibit represent a portion of the entire collection. Further information and artifacts can be viewed at www.unlvpublichistory.com/readytoroar, a student-created website.
Schumacher expressed his pleasure with the exhibit and hopes that the future holds other collaborations between the Mob Museum and UNLV. Ready to Roar enhances and expands the scope of the museum’s narrative, he said.
Ready to Roar: Women’s Evening wear in the Prohibition Era will run through February. The Mob Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information on the museum, visit themobmuseum.org