Campus News

Holocaust victims fashion designs resurrected in Nancy Nicholas Hall

The Ruth Davis Design Gallery’s exhibit, “Stitching from the Holocaust,” features clothes designed by a Holocaust victim and modern work by UW design students.

Image By: Owen Desai

The School of Human Ecology held the opening reception for the Ruth Davis Design Gallery’s featured exhibit, “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” a travelling display from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee in Nancy Nicholas Hall Sunday.

The reception opened with a performance by UW-Madison cello professor, Uri Vardi, and four cello graduate students. A panel discussion from four curators called “Behind the Seams” followed in which they explained the process of researching and building the exhibit.

The display features eight dresses based off of sketches drawn by Hedy Strnad, a seamstress who died in the Holocaust. The curators said they received the packet from a Milwaukee resident, which contained the designs and a letter describing the Strnad’s desire to leave Prague for the United States shortly before World War II. The museum decided to work with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater costume shop to make these outfits, accessories and all.

“This exhibit has so many themes, but really the primary themes are of fashion design and creativity that was lost and never brought to fruition,” said Molly Dubin, curator for JMM. “It represents the vast talent that was never allowed to be brought to life, along with all the lives that were lost in the Holocaust.”

Outfits inspired by Strnad’s clothes and 1930s style by UW-Madison design students were displayed along with the historic garments, which will be in the gallery, along with the JMM exhibit, until Nov. 13.

“The students learned from this exhibit, not only the story of the Holocaust but also of intolerance,” Kathie Bernstein, former director of the JMM said. “How fabulous that on a day like 9/11 we remember both of these through this exhibit.”

The curators said they hope that the exhibit will not only educate visitors, but also serve as inspiration to continue creative and relive memories.

“Our hope is that we would have made Hedy proud with what was created,” Dubin said. “We want viewers to be inspired and be stewards of memory for stories that may come to life and enable us to get glimpses into other lives and talents.”

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