Since ancient time, man’s epic journeys on the vast and powerful seas have inspired stories of distant lands and adventure. Sea legends of mermaids and undersea odysseys from Neptune to Captain Nemo merge reality and myth. By the mid 19th century, the British naval and merchant marine force was the largest in the world and sailors in crisp navy and white uniforms were heroic icons of masculinity. Historical seaside dress and contemporary resort wear often featured motifs that drew upon nautical themes, forming a timeless trend of romantic fashions reminiscent of another time and place.
This exhibition explores the far-reaching influence of the romance of the sea on fashion design. Featuring ensembles from the 19th century to the current collections, the designs included are drawn from the Museum’s extensive permanent collection, private collections and international fashion houses including Emilio Pucci, Emanuel Ungaro and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.
Left: Miuccia Prada (Italian, b. 1949). Coat, c. 1995-6, hand painted silk with paillette and bead embroidery. Lent by Mrs. Cheryl Fine. Right: Mabel Hay Barrows (American). Fan, 1888, cardboard with silk ribbon and metal fixtures. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Miss Carolann Smurthwaite.