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Evening ensemble

Evening ensemble

  • Place of origin:

    United States (made)

  • Date:

    1967 (designed)
    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Adolfo, born 1933 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, velvet and satin crazy-patchwork, cotton, satin ribbons, wool embroidery

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Vanderbilt Wyatt Cooper

  • Museum number:

    T.2 to E-1974

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Adolfo was known for his extravagant patchwork evening looks. In this outfit he recycled an antique crazy-patchwork quilt to make the skirt, neck ruff and wrist ruffles. Despite this element of ‘cannibalisation’, he has treated the historic textile with respect, gathering rather than cutting it to make the skirt. This appreciation of quilts as textile art first emerged in the 1960s.

Adolfo Sardiña started out as a milliner in New York in the early 1950s. In 1962, he opened his own salon, designing clothes to accompany his hats. His earliest designs treated each piece as an individual, special item that could be worn separately, or assembled together into a exuberant whole. While the concept was at odds with the principle of co-ordinating, easy-wear separates that distinguished American sportswear design, Adolfo's elaborate clothes proved popular with his wealthy customers. After the 1960s his designs became dramatically simpler and more elegantly restrained.

Physical description

Evening ensemble consisting of a silk, velvet and satin crazy-patchwork skirt, ruff and pair of cuffs, a cotton organdie blouse and a canvas woolwork belt.

Place of Origin

United States (made)

Date

1967 (designed)
19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Adolfo, born 1933 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Silk, velvet and satin crazy-patchwork, cotton, satin ribbons, wool embroidery

Marks and inscriptions

ADOLFO
Label appearing in almost all elements of ensemble except sheer blouse.

Object history note

This ensemble was worn by Gloria Vanderbilt Wyatt Cooper (born February 20 1924). It was donated via the designer to the Cecil Beaton Collection.

Historical context note

Adolfo Sardiña started out as a milliner in the early 1950s. In 1955 he won the Coty Fashion award for his designs for Emmé Millinery. In 1962, he opened his own salon and began designing clothes to accompany his hats. He believed that hats should be worn as an accessory rather than a necessity, and carried this over into his clothing designs. His late 1960s fashions treated each piece as an individual and special item by itself, that could be worn together or separately. Although the principle of American sportswear embraces the concept of co-ordinating separates and a relaxed mix-and-match philosophy, the extravagance of Adolfo's designs sat slightly at odds with this philosophy. Even so, his clothes were popular with his wealthy customers.

During the 1960s Adolfo designed cloaks in felt, richly beaded and braided velvet bolero jackets, peasant-looks, and organdy blouses worn under floral overalls, or with extravagant patchwork evening looks (as here). In 1968, he remarked "Today, one has to dress in bits and pieces—the more the merrier." By 1969 he described his clothes as being "for a woman's fun and fantasy moods—I don't think the classic is appealing to people any more."

In 1970, Adolfo suddenly changed his design approach, abandoning these extravagant designs for knitwear and understatement. He continued designing splendid eveningwear, though practicality was combined with luxury, such as evening sweaters with ballgown skirts, fur-trimmed knits, caftans and evening pyjamas.

- Daniel Milford-Cottam (2010)

Descriptive line

Evening ensemble consisting of silk embroidered patchwork skirt, ruff and pair of cuffs, cotton blouse and canvas woolwork belt, designed by Adolfo, United States, ensemble designed in 1967 and patchwork made in the 19th century.

Labels and date

Evening dress
Adolfo (b. 1933)
1967 (patchwork 1880–1900)

Adolfo was known for his extravagant patchwork evening looks. Here, he has recycled an antique crazy-patchwork quilt to make the skirt, neck ruff and wrist ruffles. Despite this element of ‘cannibalisation’, he has treated the historic textile with respect, gathering rather than cutting it to make the skirt. This appreciation of quilts as textile art first emerged in the 1960s.

More quilts can be seen in the current V&A exhibition Quilts: 1700–2010.

New York
Silk patchwork, cotton, satin ribbon, woolwork embroidery [2010]

Production Note

Patchwork made using an antique 19th century patchwork quilt.

Materials

Cotton; Wool; Ribbons; Organza; Silk; Satin; Velvet; Canvas

Techniques

Patchwork; Embroidery; Berlin woolwork

Subjects depicted

Furniture; Shoes; Horses; Boots

Categories

Fashion; Clothing; Evening wear; Textiles

Production Type

Haute couture

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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