If clothing makes an unmistakable statement about its wearer, then a long prom dresses by fashion designer Christina Liedtke and painter Alex Fedirko seems custom-made for a woman proud of her complex past and looking forward to a bright future.

Titled “Streets of Detroit,” the elegant, floor-length gown features paintings of six significant Detroit structures: the Penobscot Building, Michigan Central Station, the Masonic Temple, the Guardian Building, the Fisher Building and the Fox Theatre. The hand-painted black and white gown, carefully constructed out of 15 yards of silk gazar that showcase each building panel, is part of “Fashion D.Fined: The Past, Present and Future of Detroit Fashion,” which closes its run at the Detroit Historical Museum Dec. 31.

Tracy Irwin, director of exhibitions and collections at the Detroit Historical Museum, said “Fashion D.Fined” borrows from the museum’s vast clothing collection and draws on the wealth of fashion history in a city more known for its music and its vehicles than its clothing.

“We didn’t have couture designers, with the exception of Ruth Joyce … but we were known for our garment buyers,” said Irwin, noting the city’s significance in the retail end of the fashion business.

The exhibition features clothing and accessories from the post-World War II era through the 1970s, alongside work by contemporary designers like Liedtke. Visitors will also see memorabilia like shopping bags and gift boxes from beloved former shopping destinations like Hudson’s, Himelhoch’s, Kern’s, B. Siegel, Jacobson’s and Winkelman’s, among others, along with famous Detroit stores such as Claire Péarone and Julie’s.

Liedtke, who grew up in Grosse Pointe Park and graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School, works in the fashion industry and is the founder and creative director of her own clothing line, Christiana J. Paul. Fedirko, a nationally known landscape painter, now lives in Grosse Pointe Park.

“The primary objective of this gown was one of connectivity, from the collaboration between Alex and I to connecting the vital parts of the city,” Liedtke said in an email interview. “The design of the dress represents the radial map that the city of Detroit was built on, the hand-painted buildings reflect six of the landmark buildings from the great architects of the 1900s, including the historical relevancy and use from commercial, entertainment, ritual to transportation, and finally the ‘white space’ symbolically delivers on the revitalization of Detroit and the distinctive opportunity to realize the significant potential of the city and the people in the community.”

She said the white dots at the waist represent that concept of community and connectivity.“The second message is one of time,” Liedtke said. “As you look at the dress, it bridges the past with landscape and architecture, the present with community, and the future with ‘white space.’ It is a narrative of changes and evolution through time to signify the future to be of growth, prosperity and beautification.”In an email interview, Fedirko said he “wanted to pick the most iconic buildings that existed in six different parts of Detroit” surrounding Campus Martius.He said he was trying to encapsulate Detroit’s 300-plus years of history, along with the boom years of the early 20th century and the later decline. The buildings painted on “Streets of Detroit” date from the Penobscot in 1905 to the Fox in 1928.“These buildings still stand and they are a reminder of how beautiful the architecture was and still is now,” he said.

“With what looks like a city back on the rise, all (of) metro Detroit will benefit from this revitalization. I hope the dress recaptures this golden era of Detroit and celebrates the architecture of this time, and celebrates the gathering of people that walk in and around these buildings today.”The exhibition likewise speaks to the spirit of the city, whose fashion industry is on the rebound alongside Detroit in general. Some of the designers featured in “Fashion D.Fined” have merchandise that can be purchased along Livernois Avenue’s Avenue of Fashion, which has been in the midst of a comeback in recent years.Irwin said one of the reasons for placing current designers alongside their peers of yesteryear was so that visitors could see how the fashions of the past “influence the fashion of today.”A number of big names in the fashion industry who got their start in Detroit are featured, including Tracy Reese, Anna Sui and John Varvatos. Reese’s clothing has been worn by First Lady Michelle Obama, and Varvatos’ edgy menswear has made him popular with rockers like Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop.“We’re designers of much more than cars,”

Irwin said. “We’re a city full of makers. We like to do. We like to create.”The exhibition also features work by Grosse Pointe Farms native Bridget Sullivan, whose dresses have been worn by Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding. Irwin hopes the exhibition inspires the next generation of designers and encourages visitors to seek out work by local fashion newcomers as well as their established peers.“I’m really honored to have partnered with Christina for this long evening dresses project,” Fedirko said. “I thought it turned out beautifully, and I look forward to the story it will continue to tell after the conclusion of the exhibition at the Detroit Historical Museum.”Liedtke was likewise delighted to have been able to work on this project.“It has been a pure joy coming back home to design,” said Liedtke, who now lives in New York. “I find the space here to be full of opportunity and inspiration to design around, including the stories of the amazing entrepreneurs here. I am very much looking forward to building momentum in the city of Detroit and my hometown of Grosse Pointe.”Admission is free to the Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave. in Midtown. The museum is closed Dec. 24 and 25, but will be open for extended hours from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Dec. 26 through 31. Special programs for kids and adults will also be taking place that week.

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