October 19 General Meeting and Program

Costumes Galore…MGM and More

Multipurpose Room, Veterans Memorial Building, 7PM

 

The Culver City Historical Society will present a special multi-faceted program featuring the care and display of Culver City’s MGM costume collection by Denice Renteria, Costume Chair, and Sharon Shore, past Costume Chair, plus a presentation by Louise Coffey-Webb, former Society President.

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Denice

Renteria, a prop maker for Knott’s Berry Farm, and Shore, an internationally and nationally known conservator of textiles, will begin with a visual presentation and discussion about the costume collection held in the

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Sharon

 

Archives and Resource Center (ARC), and will show several costumes. Coffey-Webb, costume historian Project Manager for the James G. Gallanos Foundation, and author of Managing Costume Collections: An Essential Primer, will give a lively illustrated introduction to the joys and trials of costume collections of all shapes and sizes.

Coffey-Webb will be selling her book at a special price and will sign them.

The ARC will be open after the meeting where additional costumes will be on

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Louise Coffey-Webb

display.

 

Members and the public are invited to enjoy this free program. Entry is through the ARC from the back parking lot.

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Notes From Your City Historian: Summer 2016

Think Fabric!  Think Conservation!

There is no doubt that Culver City has an interesting history! We receive inquiries continuously asking about people, places and things. Did you know that one of the most appreciated areas of our collection is often made of fabric? Yes, first, you probably think of the MGM costume collection for which we are caretaker—but the subject is limitless.

Sharon Shore, who just completed her term as our Costumes Chair, and continues to serve on the committee, offers a broader perspective on the reality that many of our fondest possessions as well as memories involve fabric. This could take the form of a quilt made by someone special, a piece of clothing created for an occasion, a unique pillow made from a grandpa’s ties, an apron constructed to be beautiful and utilitarian, and so much more!

We look for fabrics and patterns to suit our taste, for our draperies, bedspreads, furniture, carpets and beyond. We make time to visit museums like LACMA, the Getty, the Huntington, or Hearst Castle whose collections make us delight in artfully constructed tapestries, costumes, and historic clothing.

Sharon Shore, Director and Conservator of Caring for Textiles, a laboratory for textile conservation, maintains her private practice in Culver City.  She is an amazing resource to our Culver City Historical Society.  We benefit from her skills and mentorship. Sharon recently completed the book of research information on our costume collection. In addition, because of public interest, she and other members of her team constructed a book of the 60+ MGM Costumes. It contains photos with descriptions of each costume for public view.  It is readily available for research and general interest in the Archives.

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection.   The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Our textile experts Denice Renteria (left), Costume Chair and Sharon Shore (right), former Costume Chair prepare mannequins in costumes from the MGM collection. The striped jacket was worn by Gene Kelly in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Watch for an opportunity in the near future to talk to Sharon in one of our “Conversations” series on special interests, like Costumes and Fabric Conservation!

Here are a few quotes to reiterate the importance of “fabric”:

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” (Margaret Mead)

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” (Walter Benjamin)

“When the fabric of the universe becomes unknown, it is the duty of the university to produce weavers.” (Gordon Gee)

“If I want to calm down, I’ll buy some fabric, get a pattern, shut myself in a room and stay there for days, really happy. And at the end of it, you get a bedspread or some curtains or something to wear – it’s lovely.” (Twiggy)

Many of Culver City’s historic sites are featured on our fabric “throw” available through our onsite and online shops.

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News from the Costume Chair: Summer 2015

An Old Costume Finds a New Home

by: Sharon Shore, Costumes Chair
When Culver City native Carol Ball attended the MGM auctions in 1970, she was a teenager lookiSumn Carol Ball  p.1ng for costumes to wear for Halloween. Among her purchases was a two-piece dress worn by Marjorie Main in MGM’s 1946 production of The Harvey Girls. The film is about a group of young women, including Judy Garland, who head out West to work as waitresses at the Harvey House restaurants. Marjorie Main is seen in this costume in the very first scene of the movie as the girls are singing the popular “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.” But Carol never wore the costume and it spent the next 40-some years in her cedar chest. In 2011, Carol, a Life Member of the Society, decided to donate it to an organization that she knew would treasure it: the Culver City Historical Society! “How wonderful to finally see my donated Marjorie Main Harvey Girls costume on display for all to enjoy,” said Carol. “It’s so good to know that it will be cared for and stored by our own historical society. It’s another fun reminder of those summer days I will never forget in 1970 that I spent at the MGM auction.” The 1890s costume, now exhibited through July in the Archives and Resource Center, was designed for the film by Helen Rose. The display also includes photos of Byron Harvey Jr., grandson of the Harvey House founder Fred Harvey. The display and selected accessories were created by Denice Renteria and Costume Chair Sharon Shore.

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Costumes Fall 2013

NEWS FROM THE COSTUME CHAIR . . .

by Sharon Shore, Costumes Chair

CATALOGUING THE COSTUME COLLECTION FOR THE FUTURE

Beginning in the spring of this year, we continued a project to transfer handwritten costume catalog information from notebooks to the Society’s museum collection database. We hope to finish the transfer by the end of the year. At completion, the cataloged contents of our collection will be more readily available to our members, researchers, and the general public.

The process of creating a database for the entire collection can lead to renewed consideration for understanding the collection. We now know that 26 different film productions can be positively identified by labels sewn in the inside of some costumes.

Periodically, we have shown films associated with costumes on display, if known. A whole new dimension is added to the display when the costume appears “in action” within the film narrative.

Although the Society has a small but growing collection of DVDs and videos in the archive, only one film is matched with a costume.

Thanks to a donation of Volume I of a set of Esther Williams films by Stuart Freeman, the rhinestone-covered swimsuit in our collection appears as it looked on Esther Williams in This Time for Keeps (1947).

Some of you might have seen the costumes from Billy Rose’s Jumbo, currently on display, as they appear in the final scenes from the film, shown during public open hours, thanks to a loan from Judy Stangler.

Following are the twenty-five other films that have been identified with our MGM costumes in the collection. It is our hope to build the Society’s DVD library with copies of them. Some are obscure and difficult to locate.

Assistance by a donation and/or information about the availability of any of the films listed would be much appreciated and add to the pleasure of seeing them in historical context.

Our film screenings in the ARC during public hours are free and open to all.

  • Billy Rose’s Jumbo, 1962
  • The Bride Goes Wild, 1948
  • Broadway Serenade, 1939
  • The Brothers Karamazov, 1958
  • Give a Girl a Break, 1953
  • Honky Tonk, 1941
  • The Kissing Bandit, 1948
  • Les Girls, 1957
  • A Life of Her Own, 1950
  • Little Women, 1949
  • Living in a Big Way, 1947
  • Love Me or Leave Me, 1955
  • Madame Bovary, 1949
  • Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944
  • Merry Widow, 1952
  • Neptunes’s Daughter, 1949
  • The Painted Veil, 1934
  • The Pirate, 1948
  • Saddle the Wind, 1958
  • Small Town Girl, 1953
  • The Swan, 1956
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame, 1949
  • Three Wise Fools, 1946
  • Two Sisters from Boston, 1946
  • Undercover Maisie, 1947
  • Valley of Decision, 1945
  • Words and Music, 1948
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Costumes Summer 2013

by Sharon Shore, Costumes Chair

“ELEPHANTS” PARADE DOWN OVERLAND AVE FOR “JUMBO”

Due to its unique history as home to several famous movie studios, Culver City has witnessed many intriguing events.

Heads must have turned in 1962 when a small group of elephants, including Sidney the Elephant, strolled down Overland Avenue on location for the Metro Goldwyn Mayer film musical Billy Rose’s Jumbo. Unfortunately, our collection doesn’t include the custom sized black top hat and magician’s cape worn by Sidney in her starring role as “Jumbo” in the film.

We do have the next best thing, however. Our collection includes the complete clown costume worn by Jimmy Durante as Pop Wonder, owner of the traveling circus and Jumbo.

The costume is surprisingly complete and in relatively good, exhibitable condition. It includes a hat, a pair of clown-sized red and white wing tip shoes, cartoon-sized mittens, a detachable collar, cuffs and bib-like shirt front, a red silk vest with oversized buttons, and plaid pants with matching tail coat! The entire costume will be displayed for the summer season in the ARC museum.

Leopard print leotards worn by Doris Day as Pop’s daughter, Kitty, and Martha Raye, as Lulu the fortune teller and Pop’s love interest, are also included in the book, display.

The film was directed by Charles Walters and based on a musical play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Costumes were designed by Morton Haack.

MORE ABOUT STORING YOUR COSTUMES, KEEPSAKES AND HEIRLOOMS COLLECTION

The challenge of preparing valued collections, including costumes and other types of textiles, for long term storage can be a bit daunting. However, identifying the appropriate wrapping materials such as “buffered” or “un-buffered” paper and special storage containers designed to house a range of shapes and sizes is important. The choices you make can affect the condition of the items in the stored collection over time.

One way to begin the process is to set aside a few minutes to look through the archival materials catalogs on file at the ARC. The catalogs are divided into categories for types of art to be stored, such as photos, books, textiles, etc. The products featured in each category are usually illustrated by photographs and have some explanation about their archival qualities and intended use. Most products come in a range of sizes. Although you might decide not to purchase any of the catalog products, the information might be helpful in establishing some practical “dos” and “don’ts” for setting up storage conditions for your collection. The catalogs are available by request to members for use in the ARC.

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