Millicent Rogers Museum
I’d meant to post on my visit to the Millicent Rogers museum in Taos before now but it’s hard for me to get back in the swing of things after time off. Regarding Millicent, in a previous post I wrote:
Millicent Rogers was an heiress, granddaughter of one of the original founders of Standard Oil. While she was a legend in the fashion industry, she was a compassionate and tireless humanitarian as well. From the Taos news:
[...] Rogers assembled influential friends with the purpose of addressing the rights and cultural value of Native Americans. In 1947, she and authors Frank Waters, Oliver Lafarge and Lucius Beebe hired lawyers and went to Washington to lobby for Indian citizenship. At that time, Native Americans were considered as numbers and couldn’t even get passports. Their mission was the formation of more humane policies in which to govern America’s affairs with the eight northern Pueblos in New Mexico. Rogers also successfully fought for Indian art to be classified as “historic,” thus providing protection and status. Because Rogers was well-known and influential, she called upon the magazines that had written so much about her to help spread the word of her cause.
Sally told me that Millicent Rogers was able to convince Balenciaga to make her some peasant blouses. Considering the kind of influence and money she had, it’s humbling to know she was buried “in an Indian blouse, skirt, moccasins and wrapped in a Navajo blanket.
Now that you know who Millicent Rogers was, I can tell you about the trip to the museum. The first thing to know about her is that she was in poor health most of her life. She’d contracted rheumatic fever when she was 8 and died of an enlarged heart when she was 50 (Jan 1, 1952; she was buried in Taos). While she was a patron saint of fashion, she was a designer of jewelry herself. I bought a book about the museum (from the museum) called Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest My copy cost $50. I note with dismay you can get it on Amazon for $28. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in southwestern style fashion design (it is it’s own genre) or jewelry and accessories design. Here is a photo (that I took) of some earrings that are similar to ones she designed (the picture of hers came out terribly). These hang over the entire ear rather than just the lobe. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t include all of her jewelry designs so these aren’t in there.
Speaking of Millicent, this is what she looks like. Ever the fashion industry person, you’ll notice she is smoking.
She also experimented with clothing design too judging from this photo of her dyeing velvets. Actually, she did more than experiment. She collaborated with French couturiers for years (she spoke French, German, Greek and Italian).
I don’t know who made this blouse (below) but it is typical of styles she’s wearing in the museum photos. The blouses are closer to short waisted jackets. The shoulders are wide too (typical of the forties). Note the silver doo-dahs; these are still popular, when you can find them. I’ve made a lot of these kinds of styles. They’re fun to make if you have the nailheads.
The other thing about Millicent is that she had a quirky sense of humor. When her children were small (she raised them in Austria until they had to flee the Nazis) she illustrated fairy tales for them. The museum shows a 12 panel illustration of her version of “The Little Mermaid”. From the panel below, you’ll note her mermaid is not human-like. This panel illustrates the first meeting of the little mermaid and the prince she falls in love with.
In the panel below, the little mermaid and the prince are married.
Here is where Millicent’s version gets twisted. The little mermaid and the prince have decided to live in the sea because the little mermaid doesn’t like living on land and she misses her sisters. So they go live under the sea. The explanation for this next panel is that the prince evidently doesn’t like living in the ocean so -and I quote- “the prince goes home”.