The BMA’s Best Dressed

"Jayne Mansfield Signing Autographs" (1961), Sid Avery, American (1918-2002). Gelatin on silver print. Gift of Ronald Avery. 1990.104.5. "Dress (Hanbok)" (About 1960), Korea. Silk and cotton. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the BMA. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Breece III. AFI919.2012.1-2. "Portrait of the Honorable Dixon Hall Lewis (1802-1848)" (About 1841-1843), Sarah Miriam Peale, American (1800-1885). Oil on canvas. Loan from the collection of Dr. and Mrs. David A. Skier.  67.1997. "Mrs. William Rhinelander Stewart, née Janet Newbold" (1948), Irving Penn, American (1917-2009). Gelatin silver print. Museum purchase with funds provided by Members of the Museum. 1990.113. Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess of d'Abernon. John Singer Sargent, 1904. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by John Bohorfoush, the 1984 Museum Dinner and Ball, and the Museum Store, 1984.121. "Top Hat and Kitten" (2006), John Bankston, American (born 1963). Oil on linen. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the BMA. Gift of the Jack Drake Collection. AFI484.2012. "Mrs. Evelyn Nash, London" (1953), Inge Morath, American, born Austria (1923-2002). Gelatin silver print. Gift of C. Martin Hames in honor of Gail Andrews 2001.54. "Marguerite de Steeland de Gaud, Lady of Hasselt" (Early 17th century), Attributed to Otto van Even, Flemish (1556-1629). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the BMA. Gift of Mrs. Caroline Patterson Ireland in memory of Captain and Mrs. Hilton Johnson. AFI22.1983. "Wedding Dress" (1920-1930), Cincinnati, Ohio. Cotton, crepe, fur, and silk. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the BMA. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ireland. AFI19.1982.70.
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"Marguerite de Steeland de Gaud, Lady of Hasselt" (Early 17th century), Attributed to Otto van Even, Flemish (1556-1629). Oil on canvas. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the BMA. Gift of Mrs. Caroline Patterson Ireland in memory of Captain and Mrs. Hilton Johnson. AFI22.1983.

With Oscar Sunday upon us, anticipation is in the air as we await the winners of the year’s best films, performances, and – of course – fashions. There is certainly an art to selecting the right look for the red carpet, as the Academy Award’s iconic looks (and fashion faux-pas) are an enduring example of a brief moment in history. Each style tells a story, giving us a glimpse into the trends, manners, and even politics of an era.

In fact, all it takes is a stroll around our galleries to see how fashion illuminates a time period, a culture, or an echelon of society. Fashion was being documented long before red carpets, award ceremonies, and even before photography. Whether worn for an important portrait or on a wedding day, each piece of clothing says so much about the subject’s life.

In celebration of Hollywood’s biggest night, we have gotten in the spirit and picked our “best dressed” pieces of art currently on view. What stories are behind each of these looks? Come in for a visit to learn more.