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Monday, December 28, 2015

Vintage gowns, jewels, accessories end at Hillwood Jan. 10

Marjorie Merriweather Post wore this gown in celebration of her husband's bestselling book and movie, Mission to Moscow, about their lives in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1938. Miss Post commissioned the jewels from Cartier/Photo by Patricia Leslie

 Darling, for a sumptuous visual feast, you would do yourself (and others of similar persuasion) a favor to visit Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens and luxuriate in Marjorie Merriweather Post's elegant gowns, now the centerpiece of an exhibition, Ingenue to Icon.   

Shoes, parasols, and other accessories complete her outfits in a 20th century fashion history which embrace 70 years of Miss Post's life.

The dresses pictured here are from the first part of the exhibition, no longer on view but changed out for another presentation of gowns which may be seen through January 10. 

They are but a small portion of Miss Post's ensemble of 175 gowns and 300 accessories (of 17,000 objects at the museum) featured in the show which is arranged chronologically.   

A 150-paged color catalogue is available for purchase.
This dress (which rotated at the display on a pedestal) opened the first part of the exhibition It's made of silk satin and includes the velvet and fur drape slung/resting on the chair.  For the accompanying 1934 portrait by Frank Salisbury, Miss Post wore a double-strand pearl necklace and Cartier bracelets/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) was/is a celebrity icon, a socialite, and philanthropist with a net worth of $5 billion (Wikipedia).  

The daughter of the cereal magnate, wife of four, and mother of three daughters (of whom only the youngest, the actress Dina Merrill, survives and celebrates her 92nd birthday December 29),
Miss Post lived in the Soviet Union during 1937 and 1938 with Husband No. 3, Joseph E. Davies who served as the U.S. ambassador under Joseph Stalin.

While in the Soviet Union, the couple's affinity for Russian imperial art developed, aided by their purchases, often at discounted rates, of the things they grew to love.  (Stalin needed the money for his industrialization projects.  This scenario can be compared to the Nazi seizure of masterpieces from Jewish families before and during World War II since some of the Russian art allegedly was taken from murdered royalty and private Russian citizens.)

Outside Russia, Hillwood has the world's largest collection of that nation's imperial art.  (One could only imagine how Vladimir Putin would like to have it back. A point of negotiation?  If he were to visit and ride horseback topless through Hillwood's 25 acres with BFF Donald Trump, consider Hillwood's ticket sales!  This activity is in keeping with both personalities, however, it would run counter to the style, class, and sophistication Miss Post represented so let's forget this possibility and move on.  BTW, in 1985 Mr. Trump bought Miss Post's Palm Beach mansion, Mar-A-Lago. The links are ceaseless.) 
Miss Post wore "my first ballgown" on her 16th birthday, March 15, 1903. Photographs and portraits of her in various apparel complement the garments in the exhibition/Photo by Patricia Leslie
With her two daughters, Adelaide and Eleanor, this 1918 portrait depicts Miss Post in an "afternoon dress"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Calling Agatha Christie.  This was a "traveling dress" with accessories, circa 1910/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Miss Post's suffragette suit which she wore as a member of the New York State Woman Suffragette Party when the group met with President Woodrow Wilson in Washington on Oct. 25, 1917. The hat on the table reminds me of a big black bird flying in for a landing. (Have you seen the movie, Suffragette?  A must-see.  One of the year's best!) 

If the skirt were a foot shorter or pants, it could have come from the closet of Barbara Bush or Hillary Clinton, don't you think?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Miss Post's Paris-designed dress was considered daring with its bifurcated skirt, inspired by the Ballets Russes which took Europe and America "by storm" when it performed from 1909 to 1929/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A 1935 Bergdorf Goodman creation in the "Hollywood style"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Miss Post wore this on Oct. 31, 1957, when in recognition of her long devotion to France, the French ambassador awarded her the cross of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (the red ribbon sewn to her dress).  During World War I she established a hospital in northern France and in 1955, the bicentennial of Marie Antoinette's birth, helped raise money for Versailles/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some of Miss Post's gowns/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The white "mermaid dress" was a gown Miss Post wore for the opening of the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in September, 1962. The black "mermaid dress" is Hillwood's most recent addition, given last August by Miss Post's great-grandson, Post Steven Dye.  In the photograph circa 1962 taken at Hillwood, Miss Post wears the dress made of silk crepe,
nylon organza, chiffon, and iridescent sequins.  Miss Post bought Hillwood in 1955/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In 1952 when she was 65, Miss Post wore this gown for the portrait by Douglas Chandor.  It was designed by Ann Lowe, an African American who, in the previous year, created Jacqueline Bouvier's wedding dress for her marriage to John F. Kennedy/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Gowns in Hillwood's dining room/Photo by Patricia Leslie
More Hillwood and Post finery in the mansion, the designs which suggest an adaptation of the Winged Victory of Samothrace/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Nicholas II who served as tsar of Russia from 1894 to 1917 is positioned on the right wall upon entrance to the mansion's Pavilion theater used for after-dinner movies and dancing.  On a nearby piano in the Pavilion are photographs of Nicholas, his wife and five children, all murdered by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918.   Will the Russians have a commemoration in their honor for the upcoming centennial of their deaths?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Another portrait of Nicholas II, also in the Pavilion on the left wall/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Hillwood's north portico where visitors enter/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Hillwood's south portico where visitors dream/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Steps to a Hillwood pond with statuary, all open for visitors' exploration and enjoyment/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Natural beauties found outdoors in the cutting garden/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Many rooms at the Hillwood mansion are open to the public, including upstairs bedrooms and dressing rooms.

See the post on Hillwood's 2011 exhibition of the Posts' wedding dresses.

From the website:
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden’s mandate is to preserve the 25 acre estate, museum and gardens that Marjorie Merriweather Post developed to house her important collections of Russian Imperial art, French decorative arts, costumes, textiles, and jewelry and to interpret and present them for the enjoyment of the public.

WhatIngenue to Icon: 70 Years of Fashion from the Collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post

When:  Now through January 10, 2016, including New Year's Day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 - 5 p.m.  Closed on Mondays.

Where:  Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens "Where Fabulous Lives," 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008

Suggested donation:  $18 (adults), $15 (seniors), $10 (students), $5 (child, ages 6 -18) and free for those under age 6.

Discount:  When reservations are made online, prices for adults and seniors are reduced $3 for weekday admissions and $1 for weekends. (Click here.)

Members' dogs:  Welcome on Sunday mornings (!)

Parking:  Free, on-site

Biking and walking:  Encouraged; bike racks available.

For more information:  202-686-5807

Metro station: Van Ness/UDC station on the Red Line, then walk a (mostly uphill) mile and burn off Christmas calories.  (Taxis, available.)

Metro bus stop: The L1 or L2 bus stops at the corner of Connecticut and Tilden streets, NW, about a half mile's (mostly uphill) walk from Hillwood.

patricialesli@gmail.com
 

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