Gallery Reopens to the Public March 11, 2023
SALEM, MA — On Saturday, March 11, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) will unveil more than 100 fresh works from the museum’s global fashion and textile collection, including nearly 40 recent acquisitions that spotlight the vibrant and flamboyant collection of Boston-based entrepreneur and doyenne of fashion Yolanda Cellucci. PEM’s Fashion & Design Gallery features more than 180 examples of contemporary and historic dress, as well as textiles, accessories, sculpture, studio glass and decorative arts and furniture drawn from PEM’s vast and storied collection.
In 1968, entrepreneur Yolanda Cellucci entered Boston’s fashion scene and changed it forever. The city’s retail fashion scene at the time was robust, so Cellucci forged a business model focused on women’s wear and self-care in a holistic, head-turning way. Her shop Yolanda’s, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, became a hotspot for the lavish evening and wedding ensembles. In addition to offering high-profile American and international designs, including pieces by Hollywood favorite Bob Mackie, the store provided style consultations, personal shopping, cosmetology services, and a day spa with light refreshments — all under one roof. Throughout the late 20th century, Yolanda’s became a household name throughout the region and a shorthand for glitz and glamor.
In 2021, Cellucci generously donated her collection of 57 works of fashion and accessories to PEM, along with archival photographs and materials related to the legacy of Yolanda’s. “PEM is honored to be the steward of this singular and highly memorable chapter of fashion history,” said Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles.
“With an eye for all things dazzling, Yolanda Cellucci influenced so many women’s lives by encouraging them to embrace their own power and unapologetically command attention as they stepped out into the world,” added Paula Richter, PEM’s Curator overseeing the Yolanda Cellucci collection.
Throughout her career, Cellucci hosted fashion shows and galas, showcasing her merchandise and raising funds for charities focused on healthcare, the arts and education. Events at Yolanda’s influenced Boston’s society pages for decades. Now in her 80s, Cellucci continues to make an impression through her cable access TV show, a recently published autobiography Beyond the Glitz and Glamour and a series of books written in her daughter’s memory, Lindy Lou and her Dancing Shoes.
PEM’s Fashion and Design gallery, located on the third floor of the museum’s new wing, opened with fanfare in 2019. Rotations regularly take place in the gallery in order to preserve light-sensitive objects, refresh important historic and contemporary works from the museum’s collection and showcase new acquisitions. “PEM’s Fashion and Design gallery invites visitors to consider the way that we manipulate, respond to and mold our changing world. This installation unifies two traditionally disparate collecting fields to better understand what underlies our motivations and capacity for designing for ourselves and the world around us,” said Slinkard.
Other objects that will be rotated into the gallery include:
- Thirteen new ensembles in the Carl & Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery. Global style icon and centenarian Iris Apfel’s visionary approach to fashion and accessories is explored through a selection of works from the 2009–2010 Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel exhibition that was generously promised to the museum as a gift along with hundreds of other pieces from her wardrobe.
- Shoes from PEM’s renowned footwear collection, one of the largest in the United States. The collection encompasses items from across the globe, with the majority made between the 17th century and the present. The new installation will include shoes by Boston-based designer Thom Solo, as well as works by Salvatore Ferragamo and Tom Ford.
- Works in a section that looks at the concept of cultural appropriation and appreciation with a focus on China’s influence and fashion’s use of the iconic dragon symbol.
- A section of objects that speak to the notions of intimidation and empowerment. This selection includes fashion by Donna Karan, a rare Salem Zouave uniform, a Nick Cave Soundsuit and the likeness of a Samurai warrior.
- A section looking at body modification. An 18th century corset will be paired with a work from the Fall/Winter 2016 collection by the Parisian fashion house Vetements, along with never-before-exhibited jewelry from India, Singapore, Myanmar and Indonesia.
- Yolanda Cellucci, 2022. Photo by Chip Van Dyke/PEM.
- Models on a fashion runway, one in a bridal ensemble, held at the North Shore Music Theater, Beverly, MA, for the benefit of the American Cancer Society, Oct. 3, 1985. The event included comedian Joan Rivers and designer Bob Mackie as special guests. Yolanda Cellucci Papers, MSS 1871, Box 7, Folder 6, Item 1. Courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Rowley, MA.
- Cellucci, Yolanda, “Yolanda…Where Beautiful Lifestyles Begin” program cover, Dec. 9, 1973. Yolanda Cellucci Papers, MSS 1871, Box 2, Folder 5, Item 1. Courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Rowley, MA.
- Preparing the Fashion & Design gallery for Iris Apfel’s 100th birthday in 2021. Photo by Diana DiRamio/PEM.
- Shoes on display in PEM’s Fashion & Design gallery. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
- The gallery being reinstalled. Photo by Petra Slinkard/PEM.
ABOUT THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM
Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum’s collection is among the finest of its kind, including superlative works from around the globe and across time — American art and architecture, Asian and Asian export art, maritime, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, fashion and textiles, and photography, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM’s campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese home that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture in the United States. HOURS: Open Thursday–Monday, 10 am–5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit pem.org.