Opening Reception Ginger Rogers: Dressed to Impress Exhibition March 14

A public open house and reception will be held on Thursday, March 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the State Historical Society of Missouri, 605 Elm St., Columbia, featuring costumes worn by Hollywood actress Ginger Rogers during her lengthy career as an entertainer. The exhibition Ginger Rogers: Dressed to Impress opened in March and runs through August 2024 at the SHSMO Art Gallery. A public reception is in conjunction with the Missouri Conference on History, which will be held in Columbia March 13-15. The curators of the exhibition will be available to answer questions.

Born in Independence, Rogers broke into cinema as it evolved from silent films to talkies in the 1930s. The actress had already made 20 films by the time she met Fred Astaire, with whom she formed a legendary dance partnership during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Recently, a dazzling collection of costumes worn by Rogers was donated to the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection (MHCTC) in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM) at the University of Missouri. TAM is collaborating with the State Historical Society to showcase the costumes at the art gallery in the Center for Missouri Studies.

Joan Stack, curator of art collections at the State Historical Society, said the exhibit features not only beautiful full-length gowns worn by Rogers, but it also includes trousers she wore for a few of her onscreen dance numbers.

“Seeing the breadth of costume styles worn by Ginger Rogers and learning more about her life, we can see how the Missouri native often defied society norms,” said Stack.

One of the costumes in the exhibition includes the dress Rogers wore on stage as the main star in the Broadway musical Hello Dolly! In the 1970s, Rogers reinvented herself as a solo artist with an internationally successful revue featuring songs and costumes inspired by past performances. Nicole Johnston, the curator of the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection, points out that Rogers collaborated with fashion designers to help shape her personas on stage and screen during an era when gender roles were changing in America. Johnston also said the public is invited to take part in a “Day of Ginger” on April 13. Activities include a free screening of the 1935 film Top Hat and a Golden Gala event.