Museum of Wisconsin Art presents The Roddis Collection: American Style and Spirit
For Hub City Times
WEST BEND — The Museum of Wisconsin Art has dedicated all of its changing exhibition galleries to the four-part, sartorial-themed show A State of Fashion on view June 11 – Sept. 17.
The Roddis Collection: American Style and Spirit showcases more than 100 years of fashion through 26 garments dating from 1880 to 1991.
This collection of women’s clothing was purchased and worn by six generations of the Roddis family of Marshfield. It is both a time capsule of American fashion and a remarkable story about individual expression and taste set against the backdrop of a small town in Wisconsin. Included are dresses by Helga, Galanos, Yves St. Laurent, Nina Ricci, and Murray Arbeid, which have never been shown publicly.
About the collection
An attic in Marshfield may seem like an unlikely location for an exquisite cache of historic clothing to be discovered. Yet, stored for six generations in the Roddis family home were more than 200 perfectly preserved garments and accessories, family photographs, and letters.
The collection contains clothes spanning from 1850-1995. The dresses were saved by Augusta Roddis, granddaughter of William H. Roddis, not with eventual museum exhibitions in mind — although they are now part of The Henry Ford museum’s collection — but because they meant so much to the family as triggers for recalling memories of places, events, and experiences enjoyed.
She remarked, “The way I feel about these clothes is that … they get increasingly interesting with each passing year.”
After the passing of Augusta Roddis, niece Jane Bradbury invited Edward Maeder, who grew up just 17 miles from Marshfield and is now curator of the collection, to visit the home and photograph and catalogue the clothing.
“We were amazed by the range of clothing that we drew from the closet and trunks in the attic. Even after two days of intensive effort, new items kept appearing, and so began the adventure,” recalled Maeder.
Accompanying the exhibition is the 320-page book “American Style and Spirit” written by Bradbury and Maeder, providing historical context and imagery of the Roddis family and its collection.