Kentucky Museum News
"Styles &thegistofit" exhibit opens Oct 22 at 4:30pm at Kentucky Museum
- Tiffany Isselhardt
- Thursday, October 21st, 2021
History suggests that as “big business” started to take hold in the late 1800s, women became more involved in business and working outside the home. However, few women owned companies. Those that did were in industries centered on women, such as home goods, apparel, or personal care.
Today, women own only 40% of businesses in the U.S., making Carrie Burnam Taylor’s business of the early 20th century that much more impressive.
Carrie Taylor was a dressmaker who began her business, the Mrs. A. H. Taylor Company, in 1878. Taylor developed the business early in her adult life and continued running it until her death in 1917. For nearly 40 years, the Mrs. A.H. Taylor Company was known for quality, lace-embellished dresses.
Curated by Dr. Carrie Cox, Assistant Professor of Fashion Merchandising at WKU, Styles &thegistofit explores Taylor's life and work. The exhibit features four full-length gowns, two coats, bodices, and other garmetns designed by Taylor, as well as documents and ephemera from her personal and professional life, supplemented by photographs and memories from Taylor's descendants. Research and interpretation was completed in partnership with several students from IDFM courses and three WKU student interns.
"Through Taylor's story, we can understand shifting gender roles, the transition from custom-made to ready-to-wear fashion, and female entrepreneurship at the turn of the 20th century," stated Kentucky Museum Development Manager and co-curator Tiffany Isselhardt. "What I hope, overall, is that this exhibit promotes renewed respect for Taylor’s life and work – and the lives and work of women in fashion design, garment factories, and other traditionally female occupations. These women dedicated so much of their time and skill to creating beautiful things, and many – like Taylor – utilized their hard-won success to benefit their communities."
Styles &thegistofit opens October 22, 2021, from 4:30 to 7pm during the Kentucky Museum's Open House. It will remain on view from October 23, 2021 to June 30, 2023.
Styles &thegistofit is sponsored by JoNell Hester, Beth Hester and Scott Gilbert, Herbert H. Beckwith, and the WKU Research and Creative Activities Program (RCAP) with supporting contributions from Bill and Joey Powell, Carrie Cox, Brenda Bush, Anna Jo and James Johnson in memory of Dr. Sallye R. Clark, Dr. Darlene Applegate, Miki and David Wiseman, Carrie W. Taylor, Amy and Owen Mitchell, and Angela Jones and Renita Anderson in honor of Sonja Jones.
About the Mrs. A. H. Taylor Collection
A collection of nineteen garments produced by the Mrs. A. H. Taylor company is held by the Kentucky Museum at WKU, complemented by the personal and business papers of Mrs. Taylor held by the WKU Department of Library Special Collections. Additional information and photographs have been provided by descendants of Carrie Taylor.
These collections formed the basis for research and publications by WKU Professor of Textiles and Clothing Dr. Sallye R. Clark (1941-2019). Today, Dr. Carrie Cox is continuing this research, in collaboration with WKU fashion merchandising students.
Dr. Cox’s research is complemented by research conducted by Dr. Whitney Peake (WKU, Department Chair, Vitale Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Associate Professor – Management) and Dr. Kate Hudepohl (Associate Professor, Anthropology) in the 2019-20 exhibition, Out of the Box.