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College of Human Ecology

Discovery Center exhibit features costume museum garments from 1917-1963

Friday, October 3, 2014

A flapper dress in startling red and a child’s dress sewn from chicken feed sacks illustrate the swing from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression. Both are part of Flint Hills Forces II: Our Town, Our Fort, Our University 1917 – 1963, an exhibit at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.

The "flapper" of the Roaring '20s dressed radically different than society had witnessed before.

The "flapper" of the Roaring '20s dressed radically different than society had witnessed before.

The College of Human Ecology's Historic Costume and Textile Museum contributed both dresses as well as unusual K-State athletic garb, a patented maternity ensemble from 1938 and a pair of Red Ryder boy’s pajamas representing the 1950s.

Forces II examines the intertwined history of Manhattan, Fort Riley and Kansas State University as they grew and changed over the decades. It explores the experiences and events of 1917-1963 including: soldiers training for trench warfare during WWI, the opulence of the Roaring Twenties at the new Wareham Hotel, the trying times of the Great Depression, a WWII forward observer's jeep and supplies, and family life around the television in a 1950s Manhattan living room.

In 2012, the Forces I exhibit covered the history of first 64 years of the fort, the town and the university. Both were collaborative efforts by the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design; the Morse Department of Special Collections at Hale Library; the Riley County Historical Society and Museum; the U.S. Cavalry Museum, Fort Riley; and the Conservation Division, DPW, Fort Riley.

The flapper cocktail dress represented a major style change that reflected the changing social mores and freedoms women were experiencing in the 1920s, said Marla Day, senior curator for the museum collection.

The child’s feed sack dress was made by Nellie Koons for her granddaughter, Nelda, in 1938, Day said. Flour, sugar and feed fabric were often made into clothing during the depression and when textiles were rationed during World War I and II.

Women earned letters by playing intramural sports.

Women earned letters by playing intramural sports.

Another article from the costume museum is a women’s letter sweater, earned and won by Reva Helen Lyne in 1928. In the 1920s, women earned letter sweaters by playing intramural sports because college officials didn’t allow intercollegiate games for them, Day said.

A 1950s maternity suit, donated by the George W. Given family, manufactured by the Page Boy Maternity Company, revolutionized maternity style and created fashions worn by the rich and famous, Day explained. The design, patented by the Frankfurt sisters in 1938, accommodated a pregnant woman’s changing body in the days before spandex.

Several items from the 1930s include a Handy Dandy Apron, a long-time best-seller for the Nelly Don Company in Kansas City; a child’s apron called a Mary Jane that is sewn from feed sack fabric and styled just like mom’s Handy Dandy; a 4-H apron and a hand-stitched 4-H quilt which was a gift from Laverne and J. Harold Johnson, who was the first county 4-H agent in Kansas and later founded the Kansas 4-H Foundation.

K-State staff and faculty presenting educational programs during the exhibit are:

• Brent Maner, associate professor of history, “The Nuremberg Trials and the Development of International Law,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Discovery Center;

• Jeff Geuther, nuclear reactor facility manager, "Atomic Views: Inside Kansas State's Nuclear Reactor", a tour, 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at Cardwell Hall on campus;

• Cliff Hight, university archivist, “Generations of Success: Kansas State University 1863- 1963” at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Discovery Center;

• Marla Day, senior curator, K-State Historic Costume and Textile Museum, “Ration to Fashion" on WWII clothing regulation and rationing and its impact on fashions, 7 p.m. Jan. 8, 2015, at the Discovery Center;

Jane P. Marshall, food historian, College of Human Ecology, “Hard Times at the Table” on wartime food rationing, wartime food and special problems that demanded special solutions in kitchens during the Great Depression, 7 p.m. Jan. 29, 2015, at the Discovery Center.

The entire program is available at www.flinthillsdiscovery.org.

The exhibit will be open through Feb. 1, 2015.

It is funded in part by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit culture organization promoting the understanding of the history, traditions and ideas that shape our lives and build community.

This article was posted on Friday, October 3, 2014, and is filed under Apparel, Textiles, & Interior Design, College News, Costume and Textile Museum.