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Two exhibits highlight fashion in mid-20th century America

Katherine Soper '27 and Tom Drew '42 each contributed in different ways to the collegiate fashion scene in mid-20th century America

Posted 12.01.17 by Katherine Cowan

Sportswear -- a genre of dress that had not existed 20 years before -- became the foundation of the college woman's wardrobe. -- Deirdre Clemente 

(left) fashion illustration by Katherine Soper; (right) fashion design by Tom Drew

"We want to tell you"
College women re-define "smart" in mid-20th century fashion

A new exhibit on the upper level of the Decker Library looks at the impact of college women on mid-20th century fashion in the United States.

As the youth of America became a cultural force after the Great Depression and increasing numbers of women went to college, the impact of their overwhelming preference for casual clothing grew. Fashion designers and retailers responded by providing garments in forms and materials that the students demanded: pants, shorts, culottes, knits, and leisure wear. Department stores began marketing directly to these women via "College Shops" which were staffed by students who also served as fashion consultants. As Deirdre Clemente said, "Sportswear-a genre of dress that had not existed 20 years before-became the foundation of the college woman's wardrobe."

Katherine Soper ‘27 and Tom Drew ‘42 were two Maryland Institute alumna who contributed in different ways to the collegiate fashion scene in the mid-20th century -- Katherine Soper as a fashion illustrator and art director, and Tom Drew as a sportswear designer. The exhibit includes their work.

Fashion Drawings and Designs by Katherine Soper and Tom Drew are featured on the lower level of the Library

Baltimore native Katherine Soper graduated from Maryland Institute in 1927, and worked as a fashion illustrator and art director in Baltimore. She moved to New York City in the late 1940s, where she was art director for department stores Macy's, Gimbel's and Arnold Constable before her retirement in 1969. She died in NYC in 1992. The exhibit features many of her illustrations for Hutzler Brothers department store in Baltimore, ca. 1947.

Thomas Pendleton Drew came from Georgia to study at the Maryland Institute, earning a 3-year diploma in 1942. He then enlisted in the U.S. armed forces and fought in World War II. After the war, he enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), graduating with a BFA in 1949, then embarked on a career as a designer of sports clothing for women. His designs for firms such as Collegetown were geared specifically to younger women in the collegiate market. He joined the FIT faculty in 1974, teaching apparel design and organizing their Design Laboratory Costume Collection. A selection of his fashion designs is on display.

Both exhibits were curated by Karen Wang '18 and Katherine Cowan, Special Collections Librarian at the Decker Library. The exhibits run through December 20, 2017. Wang has worked during the Fall 2017 semester with the Katherine Soper Fashion Illustration collection and the Tom Drew Design Archive as independent study for credit in the Art History, Theory, and Criticism department, overseen by Katherine Cowan and Jenny Carson.

Image Information:

Thumbnail: (left) Fashion illustration by Katherine Soper. (right) Fashion design by Tom Drew.
This Page: (left) Fashion illustration by Katherine Soper. (right) Fashion design by Tom Drew.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.

This page was last updated on 11/01/2017.