Uniforms in Fact and Fantasy:
January 26, 2002 – May 27, 2002
When the heroes of The Three Musketeers exclaim, “All for one and one for all!,” they commit themselves to a common goal and promise to protect and help one another. That pledge is the starting point for an exploration of the role uniforms play in all our lives. Every day we see people in uniform–police, firefighters, airline pilots, athletes, and doctors all wear uniforms. Often, that’s how we recognize people and know who they are. But, is it really that simple? All for One & One for All!: Uniforms in Fact and Fantasy is an interactive exhibition of fun and discovery that features more than fifty very different uniforms.
Elvis Presley returning from US Army service,
1960. © Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.
All for One & One for All! was developed by guest curator Nancy Rexford, costume historian and consultant, assisted by Elizabeth Fragala and Kathleen McDermott. According to Rexford, the show has been designed to encourage visitors to question how uniforms function in their own lives.
Featured in the exhibition are the stories of both fictional characters such as Commander Riker from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and real-life people in uniform including Colin Powell, Elvis Presley, a New York City firefighter, and a shipyard “Rosie the Riveter.” The complex code of voluntary conformity in dress is explored through clothing worn by 19th century Shakers and 20th century bikers, 1950s party-goers and 1960s hippies. From the world of fantasy come the black velvet, glinting braid, and red satin worn by John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne, and Jeremy Irons as the musketeers in MGM’s
U.S. Navy uniform coat worn by Commodore Thomas Macdonough,
commander of the American fleet on Lake Champlain during the
War of 1812. Collection of the Connecticut Historical Society.
The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).These elaborate costumes are dramatic examples of the visual power of uniforms in film. One of the most easily recognized uniforms in the exhibition is from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” With its well-known insignia and design, Commander Riker’s uniform shows one idea of how uniforms might look in the future.
Four interactive discovery areas in the exhibition and adjacent Textile Learning Center engage the curiosity of visitors of all ages. Children and adults are encouraged to consider how and why people wear uniforms, what personal characteristics are associated with uniforms, and why particular occasions seem to call for distinctive clothing.
Rosalie Taggi in her World War II
welder’s work clothes, c. 1944.
Collection of the Richmond Museum of History.
A film series, free lectures, and other events related to the exhibition take place during the run of All for One & One for All!. For a complete listing, click here.