Art,  Critical Writing,  Fashion,  Review

Art Review: “Frankie Welch’s Americana: Fashion, Scarves, and Politics” Revives a Unique Part of American Fashion

Who would’ve thought that an exhibition on a fashion designer would convince someone to want a McDonald’s scarf? 

From the photos of Frankie Welch’s life to the many designs she created throughout her career, the exhibition titled “Frankie Welch’s Americana: Fashion, Scarves, and Politics” gives an exceptionally interesting look into her career. 

The exhibit is on display at the University of Georgia Special Collections Library with a digital version also available. The exhibit goes through the life of fashion designer Frankie Welch, who is from Rome, Georgia, and is mostly known for her scarves, from her days as a home economics teacher to fashion influencer. 

“Frankie Welch’s Americana” opens with an overview of her life mostly shown through pictures, which was the ideal choice as it gives a perfect story of her life for someone who might not know who she is. 

This exposition focuses a lot on the unique history of Welch and her designs which are what makes the exhibit so interesting and eye-catching. 

For example, you learn in the exhibition that in 1975 a reporter noted that “many political wives wouldn’t purchase a necklace without consulting Frankie first.” Or that the National City Bank of Rome in Georgia commissioned a scarf from her that they would use as premiums to encourage increased savings deposits. Or that she created many designs for businesses like McDonald’s for one, with four of the logo’s arches nicely put together to make an aesthetic and unique scarf.  

The focus on distinctive aspects of her work like these (which are just a few) shows a different side of fashion that most people would not think of. 

The exhibit has a wide range of items to view so one can have the perfect picture of Frankie’s life and career. There are photos, flyers, posters, articles of clothing she designed, and a video making the entire exhibit highly interactive. 

The exhibition mentions some things from Welch’s career but leaves out photos or videos of it (probably because of rights). Although, the exhibition persuades you to go online and find those things and more about Welch and her work. 

If you were to view the exhibit online instead of viewing the prints and designs in person, the organization and storytelling online alone are very engaging.

When it came to organization, the ending of the exhibit left you wondering more about her career, which might’ve been its purpose, but it did not feel right. They go over her history at the beginning, which is a good choice, but I think some of it should be mentioned again as a refresher. 

Since the exhibition is housed at UGA’s Special Collections Library, there is some focus on Welch’s history in Georgia, specifically making a scarf for UGA’s Presidents Club in 1982, which is a perfect touch, creating more of a connection between Welch and her work to the Georgia native viewers. 

The creators of the exhibit also made a very good and important choice of acknowledging the controversy, like cultural appropriation, around Welch’s Native American-inspired designs during the time they were designed and into today. When first viewing those designs, that was one of the first thoughts that came to mind, and without the exhibit mentioning it, there would clearly be something missing, leaving the viewer with questions.

The digital exhibition is absolutely captivating but in person, it’s even more exquisite, making it a must-see for many, especially for people with any appreciation for fashion. The exhibition makes one eager to learn more about the icon that Frankie Welch was and her highly unique work in the history of American fashion. 

Comments Off on Art Review: “Frankie Welch’s Americana: Fashion, Scarves, and Politics” Revives a Unique Part of American Fashion