A Day at MOHAI: Seattle’s Fashion Through the Ages Shows Innovation

While the identity of our fair city has changed over the centuries—whether influenced by the gold rush or the current tech boom—Seattleites, in their own way, have always dressed the part

By Andrew Hoge, Hayley Young & Darcy Camden


April 9, 2019

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the April 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

The state of style in the Northwest is continuously changing, and today, there is simply more of it. Seen here set against looks from the Museum of History & Industry’s upcoming fashion retrospective Seattle Style: Fashion/Function, this spring’s go-to trends, including warm, saturated colors, oversize patterns, and refined ’80s and ’90s silhouettes, embody that evolution. While the identity of our fair city has changed over the centuries—whether influenced by the gold rush or the current tech boom—Seattleites, in their own way, have always dressed the part. 

Clear Sailing
At left:
Almond and white striped blouse by Frame, $270, from Intermix at The Bellevue Collection. Open back V-neck dress, $795, by Schai. “Nevelson” prism necklace by Stella Fluorescent, $385, from Moorea Seal. Black and brown leather twisted cuff by Greenbelts, $20, from The Handmade Showroom at Pacific Place. “New Moon” black leather backpack by Tree Fairfax, $220, from Moorea Seal. “Siren-3” snake print pointy toe bootie by Jeffrey Campbell, $164.95, from Nordstrom at The Bellevue Collection.

At right: Boxy circle print silk top by Theory, $335, from Nordstrom in downtown Seattle. Maroon lacquered cotton-blend coat by Kassl, $1,445, from Barneys New York, Seattle in Pacific Place. “Larissa” sterling silver drop earrings by Wolf Circus, $125, from Pipe and Row. A-line “Mangus” trouser in navy, $595, by Schai. “Elita” woven white leather cap toe bootie by Sam Edelman, $149.95, from Nordstrom at The Bellevue Collection.

Dress Up: Even more than 50 years ago, Seattle wasn’t just a Gore-Tex and fleece town. Left to right: Marilyn Domoto Webb purchased this hostess gown from John Doyle Bishop to wear while hosting her daughter’s first birthday party in July 1971. The 1970 vintage men’s suit, tie and shirt were owned by John Doyle Bishop, who was called “Seattle’s leading fashion retailer” by Women’s Wear Daily.  This gown, purchased in about 1955 from the Designer Room at famed Seattle department store Frederick & Nelson, was created by Los Angeles–based fashion and costume designer Irene.

In the Pink
Rachel Comey pink wool blend blazer, $625, and straight leg trousers, $425, each with moiré finish, from Nordstrom in downtown Seattle. “Shoolboy” modal T-shirt by ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo, $85, from Nordstrom at Northgate Mall. “The Unknown” purple rabbit fur felt fedora-style hat with pink accent, $400, from ByVlada. Arti Moda python and metal bracelet, $295, from Luly Yang. 18K yellow gold and diamond stream open ring by Fernando Jorge, $15,600, from Twist. 18K gold and lapis earrings by Ten Thousand Things, $1,342, from Twist.

Call of the Wild: The great outdoors has always called to Seattleites, and innovative designers have answered with rugged clothing, such as this 1976 Gore-Tex hooded rain jacket from Mountain Safety Research, one of the first companies to use this material for recreational wear. The Sahara convertible pants, 2001 vintage, are from REI.

At Ease
Striped mint green midi dress with keyhole neckline by Proenza Schouler, $1,750, from Barneys New York Seattle, in Pacific Place. Ksubi oversize distressed-denim jacket, $215, from Intermix at The Bellevue Collection. Dark gray leather tote by Orciani, $665, from Butch Blum. Silvia Furmanovich necklace made with peach beads and wooden diamond-encrusted pendant, $3,800, from Twist. Rose gold vermeil bracelet by Silver + Salt, $226, from The Handmade Showroom at Pacific Place. “Elina” black woven leather mule by Dolce Vita, $140, from Nordstrom at The Bellevue Collection.

Outgoing: This early-1950s gown, from the House of Schiaparelli (when Hubert de Givenchy was designing for it), was worn by Seattle arts patron Ruth Schoenfeld Blethen Clayburgh, who organized and attended some of Seattle’s most glamorous fundraising events, such as PONCHO (Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural, and Charitable Organizations), which she cofounded.

Window Dressing
“Néhmo” high-low white Italian cotton shirt, $445, by Schai. Dogtooth pleated multicolored midi skirt by Topshop, $100, from Nordstrom at Northgate Mall. Hands-free phone sling in black, $295, by Feral. Vintage marbled Bakelite bangles in dark green with 18K gold, citrine, peridot and sapphires by Mark Davis, $1,680, $2,460 and $3,000, from Twist. “Arc” necklace made with brass and white braided rope by The Salt Empire, $110, from Moorea Seal. “Cookie” black sock high-heeled booties by Steve Madden, $99, from Macy’s at Northgate Mall. 

Fashion In History: Learn about Seattle’s sartorial history at the Museum of History & Industry’s Seattle Style: Fashion/Function exhibit, May 4–October 14. Curated by Clara Berg, collections specialist for costumes and textiles, this exhibit will feature garments and accessories from MOHAI’s archive, showcasing how elegance and practicality coexisted in the wardrobes of Seattleites. MOHAI, South Lake Union, 860 Terry Ave. N; 206.324.1126

Display Case
At left: “Block Harrington” teal color block satin jacket, $450, by Maiden Noir. Cropped leather pants, $650, by Michael Kors at Michael Kors. “Elita” woven white leather cap toe bootie by Sam Edelman, $149.95, from Nordstrom at The Bellevue Collection. “Force” convertible black Italian leather belt bag by Avec La Troupe, $525, from Nordstrom in downtown Seattle. Hammered rose gold hoop earrings by Hannah Naomi, $40, from Pipe and Row.

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