Flannery and Fashion
Andalusia Farm uses fashion as a window into writer Flannery O’Connor’s character in its current exhibit.
“Flannery and Fashion at Mid-Century” puts into context the significance of fashion in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction and in her own personal life. Since the actual clothing is quite fragile, the exhibit consists mostly of high-quality photographs taken by Georgia College art professor Emily Gomez that highlight the sewing skills of O’Connor’s mother, Regina, and explores the interest that both mother and daughter shared regarding the details of midcentury modern fashion. Through November 1, you can see photos of O’Connor wearing dresses made by her mother, such as a simple navy blue frock that upon closer inspection features a bodice with subtle but meticulous pin tucking, and a peacock-colored brocade dress with a matching fabric-covered belt from a belt kit (a trendy item at the time because a matching belt from the same fabric as the dress gave homemade dresses the same polish and put-together look as those from a department store).
Letters featured in the exhibit from O’Connor to her mother contain details about clothing she recently purchased, sending stockings home to be repaired, why Protective Cleaners in Milledgeville is the best (they’re still in business) and the joys of finding a bargain on a new and innovative item such as Blue Label dress shields. Like with many mothers and daughters, fashion provides a common ground, something to observe and to commiserate about. In O’Connor’s fiction, fashion is a window into character, and the exhibit explores this aspect with well-chosen passages.
The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.” – “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
“Flannery and Fashion” is also interactive as well as intimate. As you peruse items on display, you can sit down at a desk in the back corner room and type what you’re wearing today on a typewriter (yes, a real typewriter!) for posterity. You can then try your hand at drawing your own monogram in the style that Regina used to create on her sewing machine, then pin it onto the wall so that it becomes a part of the exhibit.
In fact, it isn’t difficult to feel like you’re a part of things at Andalusia. As you pass through the gift shop area, look for a friendly chicken doll wearing a green cape sitting on a shelf. Ask Operations and Visiting Services Manager April Moon about O’Connor’s early home economics project of making outfits for her pet chickens — an effort the young writer found far more worthwhile than the class assignment of making an apron for herself that she would never use.
See “Flannery and Fashion at Mid-Century” at Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, through November 1. Other upcoming events include a monthly book club meeting on September 24, a Bluegrass Festival October 10 and exhibit on artists interpreting O’Connor’s work.