Wednesday, August 15 , 2018, 4:41 pm | Fair 78º


Judy Foreman: Costume Council Gives Starring Role to Silent Movie-Era Fashion

Through lens of Flying A Studios, Santa Barbara Historical Museum shows off its freshly refurbished collection of costumes and textiles


The June day may have been gray, but the atmosphere was warm and bright in the historic Covarrubias Adobe at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum as guests gathered for a special luncheon and lecture.

More than 40 people attended the recent event, sponsored by the Costume Council, which helps fund the conservation and exhibition of the museum’s vast collection of historical costumes and textiles.

A long-running environmental remediation project has focused on cleaning, re-storage and relocation of the textiles, most of which are kept in the museum’s basement and are susceptible to mold. The project was managed by a professional team that included Belfor Restoration, two of the top conservators in the world, and museum staff and volunteers.

Guests were welcomed by Costume Council co-chairwomen Nancy Hunter and Cheryl Ziegler, along with museum director Lynn Brittner, board president Sharon Bradford and trustees Betsy Jones and April Walstad.

Among the council members in attendance were Melissa Dvorak, Sally Enthoven, Joanie Jackson, Jann Jaffe, Joanna Kerns, Betsey Moller, Françoise Park, April Riessen, Eleanor Van Cott, Dody Waugh, Patty Weber and Cici Williams.

A special guest was Beverley Jackson, the doyenne of Santa Barbara’s social scene, an author, photojournalist, art collector, textile scholar and none other than the co-founder of the Costume Council.

With the help of a black-and-white PowerPoint presentation, historian Neal Graffy regaled his audience with stories of Santa Barbara’s era of silent filmmaking.

While many locals are aware that Flying A Studios once called our town home, most don’t know that Santa Barbara was the center of the moviemaking world between 1912 and 1921. The Chicago-based American Film Manufacturing Co. opened the largest production facility in the country here: the prolific Flying A Studios, whose distinctive winged logo was affixed to more than 1,200 films — a staggering number.

Graffy, author of A Murder at the Potter Hotel and several other leading historical books about Santa Barbara, provided humorous and entertaining anecdotal stories about the films, and the actors, producers, directors and cameramen who produced them.

Graffy was followed by Kara McLeod, a costume historian, designer and professor at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. Using some of the costumes on display and others depicted in Graffy’s PowerPoint, she explained the fashion silhouettes and challenges they presented for young actresses in the early 1900s.

After an luncheon catered by the Catering Connection, guests were invited to tour the museum. Many historical costumes are housed in the permanent collection, and all are in pristine condition.

I took a tour of the new Edward Borein Gallery, which opened in May and houses a robust collection of the acclaimed Western artist’s work. In 1921, Edward Borein and his wife, Lucille Maxwell, moved to Santa Barbara, from where he chronicled life in the New West until his death in 1945 at age 73.

The Borein collection was created by museum trustees Marlene and Warren Miller and is sponsored by a large group of benefactors and collectors.

The newly remodeled gallery features traditional wooden lentils, copper plates, and colorful paintings of Indians, cowboys and vaqueros in a throwback to California’s historic eras. Works from Borein’s home and old El Paseo studio are displayed, along with photographs of his life and even three miniature saddles he created.

“I hope that more locals and tourists visit the museum so that they can enjoy all the renovations and learn more about the colorful history of Santa Barbara’s historic artists and founding families,” Jones said.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is located at 136 E. De la Guerra St. Click here for more information about the Costume Council, or click here for more information about the museum. Click here to make an online donation.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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