Fundraising Friday: Renaissance Man

It's Fundraising Friday! The FIDM Museum is in the final months of a major fundraising campaign to purchase the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, a private collection of 1,200 historic garments and accessories from four centuries assembled by the late Helen Larson, a collector from Whittier, CA. Each Friday, this blog will feature an exquisite piece from the collection, with information on how you can make a donation to keep these one-of-a-kind treasures together and housed in a public collection in Larson's native Southern California. 


c. 1600-1610
Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

Today's post looks at one of the oldest and most valuable pieces in the Larson collection, a man's jerkin from Renaissance Italy. A jerkin was an outer garment worn over the doublet; it was usually sleeveless, with short tabs or skirts at the waistline. It's a style that that would have been familiar to Shakespeare; in fact, jerkins are mentioned in several of his plays, often made of hard-wearing leather. This version is a much more prestigious and ornamental textile, Italian silk velvet. Italy was the silk capital of Europe at the time, and velvet was the most expensive, complex weave. King Henry VIII is known to have owned a velvet jerkin in the same color. Trimmings of metallic braid enhance the luster of the vibrant textile. Lavishly decorated menswear is well represented in the Larson collection; many more examples can be seen in Opulent Art: 18th-Century Dress from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, on view at the FIDM Museum through July 2. 


Helen Larson spent 50 years building her collection of historic fashion; now, it is in danger of being dispersed forever or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public. The FIDM Museum needs your help to save the Larson collection. You can make a contribution of any amount online or by mail. Donations are tax deductible; if your company has a matching gift program, your support will go even further. The FIDM Museum has until the end of 2015 to finish raising the necessary funds, so now is the time to join the campaign and help make fashion history.

Leave a Reply