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Fashion Drawing: Party Dress

c. 1930

At twenty, Ray wrote to her mother declaring that she wanted to earn a living in “commercial art, either advertising or costume design.” Six years later, she wrote again saying that her friend Eleanor McClatchy “told me that ‘Fran’ (Francis Hayes) was to give a concert in February and wanted a costume, so I drew up several designs and sent them to Eleanor—who seemed to like them very much.”

The drawing is signed “Ray Kaiser” in lower right corner.

  • Medium:Ink and graphite on paper
  • Dimensions:17 15/16 x 11 7/8 in. (45.6 x 30.2 cm)
  • Item:A.2019.2.010
Curatorial Notes
This floor-length, bias-cut evening dress would have been the height of fashion in the late 1920s and early 1930s when Ray was a high school student and a member of the Art Club. It is likely that this illustration was created during a session of the club. It is one of a small number of Ray’s drawings that survive from this period.

The strikingly geometric fabric design of pink, white and black overlapping circles and a large green leaf is repeated and magnified behind the model’s head. As a member of the Art Club Ray would have been exposed to Art Deco, a visual arts style influenced by the geometric forms of Cubism (an art style that flourished in the 1920s and 1930s). The soft, clinging fabric is probably intended to represent a silk faille or crepe—both popular textiles in the 1930s that draped beautifully.

Dale Carolyn Gluckman