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High Fashion In Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Museum just cleaned out its closet and found lots of couture. The exhibit American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection opens today.

It took about four years to sift through the luxury pieces, many of which have been in the museum's storage for years.

The show consists of 85 dressed mannequins, draped in couture dating from the mid-19th Century to the late-20th Century.

And they didn’t forget to accessorize. The exhibit also includes hats, shoes, design sketches, and fashion dolls.

The show features works by the first generation of American women designers, including Bonnie Cashin, Elizabeth Hawes, and Claire McCardell, as well as materials created by Charles James, Norman Norell, Gilbert Adrian, and other influential American designers. French designers, like Charles Frederick Worth and Christian Dior, also made it into the mix.

"The reason we're calling this American High Style is because it is high-style clothing" that was "worn by American women who were very fashion-conscious and could afford really fine clothing," says curator Jan Glier Reeder.

Many of the donations came from socialities who made shopping their passion, including Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, who founded the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, and Emily Warren Roebling. A rare mourning dress from Queen Victoria was also unearthed from the storage space.

When the show ends this summer, the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to house the Brooklyn collection.

To celebrate its arrival, the Met is now showing a related exhibit, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity, on view until August 15.