ECSU exhibit tells one woman’s journey from the "Holocaust to High Fashion"
Sidonia Perlstein was a holocaust survivor who made dresses for a living. Her dress shop in Springfield, Mass., “Sidonia's Dressmaking and Alterations,” did a brisk business for decades, as people lined up to get one of her original creations. Perlstein died in 2006 at the age of 93. Now, an exhibit at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford takes a closer look at Perlstein’s life through her dresses.
Curator of the exhibit, Anya Sokolovskaya, is an associate professor of theater and costume design at Eastern Connecticut State University. She said the dresses say a lot about the person who created them.
“It told me about the mastery and skill Sidonia had,” Sokolovskaya said. “The talent is amazing. It tells me about how much she strived to fit into the society by making high fashion garments.”
The 35 dresses displayed in "Sidonia's Thread - Crafting a Life from Holocaust to High Fashion" run the gamut, from evening wear and power suits, to formal and casual dresses. Vignettes tell Perlstein’s story - a survivor of two concentration camps who fled Hungary in 1949 with her two year-old daughter Hanna. In fact, all of the dresses in the exhibit were made for Hanna. Sokolovskaya said the dresses reflect how Perlstein wanted the world to see Hanna.
“She wanted her to be successful,” Sokolovskaya said. “But more than successful, she wanted her to be noticeable, beautiful, up-to-date fashion wise, and she did it.”
Sokolovskaya had help on the exhibit from students at Eastern Connecticut State University, who photographed the dresses and created the exhibit catalog. Students also created the posters and logo of the exhibit.
The exhibit runs through Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford. This summer, the exhibit will move to Arts Center East in Vernon.