Beginning in the late nineteenth century, actresses became key figures in the international cult of celebrity that flourished in the context of a nascent mass media and mass consumerism. Formerly ostracized as women of dubious morals, actresses were presented - and presented themselves - as role models for women across the social spectrum.
Through printed ephemera, exquisite dresses, and accessories, the exhibition Staging Fashion, 1880-1920: Jane Hading, Lily Elsie, Billie Burke explores the roles played by actresses as internationally known and influential fashion leaders at the turn of the twentieth century. This exhibition focuses on Jane Hading (1859-1941), Lily Elsie (1886-1962), and Billie Burke (1884-1970) as case studies through which one may investigate the actress as trendsetter and examine the objects that were instrumental in the creation of her public image and persona.
From today to April 8, 2012, the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) presents Staging Fashion, 1880-1920: Jane Hading, Lily Elsie, Billie Burke. The exhibit is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue edited by the curator Michele Majer, with contributions from Lenard Berlanstein, Sheila Stowell, Marlis Schweitzer, and BGC students.
"Although many people might not be aware of it, our present-day obsession with celebrity actresses goes back to the turn-of-the-twentieth century with the rise of mass media. Glamorous stage performers like Jane Hading, Lily Elsie and Billie Burke were adulated by male and female fans who bought millions of postcards with their images, read thousands of magazines that featured their 'private' lives, and, in the case of women especially, closely followed and often copied their every fashion move."
~~ Michele Majer
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