From its natural beauty to its two colleges, Ithaca is a city known for many things, but did you know it once played a prominent role in the fashion industry? Philip O'Driscoll has more about a new exhibit that explores how the film and fashion worlds intertwined in Ithaca.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Ithaca has been "gorges" for centuries, but during the early 1900s it was America's Biggest Little Fashion City. Perhaps not the most commonly known nickname for this early Hollywood, a new exhibit is hoping to showcase the important role fashion played during the early silent film era.
"It was a fresh new medium for the communication of fashion ideas to the masses. You could not only see the clothing but you could actually see the clothing moving on bodies," said Denise Green, a Professor at Cornell's College of Human Ecology and Exhibit Curator.
With the film industry still in its infancy, studios often left wardrobe choices up to their stars.
"This early era of filmmaking we didn't have large costume departments. Many of the actresses were actually working with fashion designers to dress themselves for films," Green said.
Meaning fashion designers were often advertising their products through the silver screen. Actress and fashion icon Irene Castle and her husband Robert Treman are among the most well known trendsetters of the period.
"She was the first film star to have her own fashion line, Irene Castle Cortecelli Fashions, which was a high end ready to wear line and she was also working the other side of the market, designing and producing dresses for Philipsborn Catalog Company, which were much more accessible to those with lower income," Green said.
The new exhibit features costumes Castle wore while filming the series Patria with the Wharton Studio. It also showcases the progression of fashion from the early 20th century.
"It features some of the garments made by the designers for actors and actresses working in the film industry. People like Lucille, Lady Duff Gordon and Paul Poiret," Green said.
And while the focus is on film, Castle's fashion contributions also extended to the world of sports.
Castle's designed a uniform for the Chicago Blackhaws hockey team. The uniform is on loan from the NHL Hall of Fame for this exhibit.
The exhibit is on display until August in the Human Ecology building at Cornell.
It's open daily and is free to the public.