June 28, 2000 - May 27, 2001

Higbee Gallery | Anne Bissonnette, Curator

The Kent State University Museum is pleased to present a unique combination of historic costumes and paper doll art. This exhibition explores fashion from the 18th and 19th centuries through authentic garments of the time period and the paper doll artistry of Norma Lu Meehan.

Meehan began her career as a fashion illustrator, working 40 years for magazines and newspapers until illustrations were replaced by the photographs that became the industry standard. Not ready to put aside her passion for illustration, she searched for an alternative artistic outlet, and soon found it in paper dolls. The creator of numerous paper doll books since 1991, Norma Lu Meehan has worked diligently to develop a reputation as a premier paper doll artist. The book, published by Texas Tech University Press, from which this exhibition is drawn, is a testament to her talent.

The idea for her latest book came when she visited the Kent State University Museum. Excited by what she saw, Meehan approached the museum staff about using the collection in a paper doll book. With Director Jean Druesedow as co-author and Curator Anne Bissonnette as consultant, the project took off. Together, they selected slides of some of the finest garments in the collection for Meehan to study and illustrate. When she showed her first watercolor illustrations for the book, Collection By Design: A Paper Doll History of Costume 1750-1900, to the museum staff, they were inspired to create a complementary exhibition.

Museum staff and volunteers under Bissonnette's direction carried out the myriad tasks of exhibition preparation: stabilizing garments, reproducing items necessary for their display, and finding paintings and decorative art to create authentic surroundings for the costumes. A rare treat for museum visitors are the many 18th-century garments from our collection, which are seldom shown. Recent acquisitions from this era include a purple iridescent gown à la polonaise, a man's orange moiré suit and our first pair of 18th-century women's shoes, shown with an exquisite short gown and quilted petticoat.

Each of the garments and paper dolls on display in the Higbee Gallery is a tribute to the changing face of fashion. The exhibition is a unique opportunity for paper doll lovers and fashion enthusiasts alike to see delightful paper doll creations alongside the period costumes that inspired them.