A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry Now On Display at the Yeshiva University Museum

Dec 26, 2005 — Yeshiva University Museum is featuring A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry 1860-1960. By exploring such themes as technology, industry, labor, immigration, Jewish and popular culture, this groundbreaking exhibition traces the early thread of 19th century Jewish immigrants seeking success in America interlaced with one hundred years of fashion from 1860-1960.

Click here to see images from the exhibit.

Paying homage to stellar household names like Levi Strauss, Hickey-Freeman, Hart, Schaffner & Marx, Nettie Rosenstein, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Bloomingdales, Leslie Fay, Anne Klein, Cole of California and countless others, this interdisciplinary exhibition tracks the development and growth of the garment industry side-by-side with the development of a nation. From the early and urgent need to clothe a nation at war in the 1860’s to the post- WWII era of American suburban life, A Perfect Fit documents this history through an exhibition, public programming, and an accompanying catalogue.

The very fabric of American culture cannot be fully understood without an appreciation of the garment industry. To understand the “rag” trade, we must appreciate the role the American Jew has played in designing, altering and literally stitching together the whole business.

German and Central European Jewish immigrants to America around the mid 19th century arrived on the scene with relevant business experience and skills just as garment production was passing from a proto-industrial phase to a more advanced stage of manufacture. In the early twentieth-century a largely Eastern European immigrant workforce powered the garment trades. In 1917, social commentator David Levinsky credited these immigrants with the creation of American style.

A color catalogue will accompany this exhibition and will embody the glamour and beauty of American fashion as well as the industrial forces driving the story of garment manufacture.

A wide array of public programs, targeting a broad and multiage audience, will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition. Many of the programs are being developed in cooperation with other cultural partners, including the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Workmen’s Circle, CityLore and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and The National Center for Jewish Film. Planned programs include:

All in a Days Work: Sharing Stories of the Garment Industry – brings in designers, fabric cutters, seamstresses, tailors and retailers to give narratives of their personal experiences in the industry.
Film series highlighting feature films and documentaries about the era.
Readings and Reviews, a series bringing in contemporary authors who bring different perspectives of the immigrant experience in the garment industry.
Bagels and Books will promote informed, lively discussions of exhibition themes around immigration, industrialization, fashion and labor.
Walking tours and showroom tours in the garment district are also planned.
Demonstrations and studio workshops will illustrate pattern making/sewing and printing, painting, drawing on surface treatments allowing visitors to embellish fabric.

The museum is located at 15 West 16th Street, in New York City and is open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm. For more information call 212-294-8330 or go to www.yumuseum.org. The exhibit is open through March 31.

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