Haute Speaker Recap: MFA Fashion and Textiles Curator

By Kristen McCleary
Photos: Stephanie Zhang

Haute Fashion had the pleasure of hosting Lauren Whitley, a Fashion and Textiles curator at the Museum of Fine Arts on Tuesday, October 23rd. Whitley spoke about the history of the MFA, the responsibilities that come with her job, and how curating fashion and textiles is just as much about the art as the style.

Whitley showed an extensive knowledge of the background of the MFA and it’s fashion and textiles exhibits. She explained that textiles helped establish the culture of Boston and the MFA due to being at the head of the industrial revolution. Textiles were also a part of one of the forefront galleries of the first showings of the MFA, back when it was housed in a building in Copley Square. The first exhibit included tapestries and costumes.

“It was shortly after that museum was founded that they were looking to collect costumes. They generally looked at it because of the beautiful fabrics rather than is as fashion as art, as we look at it today. But nevertheless, they started amassing, and as a curator, that’s a really important role,” she said. “They were really looking to document the great examples of historic textiles and costuming.”

Whitley also commented on the realities of the job, stating outright that it wasn’t a profession that one should get into for money, recognition, or even, she said jokingly, to find a husband. People get involved for the art and the rewarding experience of documenting history and entering a long line of curators who have done so from the very beginnings of the museum.

“They collected these things to inspire great works of art,” she said, “to help designers and other people who were studying art.” In addition to expanding its collection of historical pieces, the museum also collects pieces from modern designers, including Azzedine Alaïa, Olivier Theyskens, Christian Dior, and Rodarte.

Though curating may not have been a career path many of us in fashion club had considered before, Whitley certainly swayed more than a few–just another example of the multiple facets of art and business an interest in fashion can bring you.

Did you enjoy this speaker? Let us know what you thought, or who you’d like to hear from next.

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