"The Ladies of Cuneo: The Martha Weathered Fashion Collection" is the first exhibit since Loyola University took over operations of Cuneo Mansion.
‘The Ladies of Cuneo: The
♦ May 12-Sept. 8
♦ Loyola University Chicago’s Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills
♦ Admission: $10, $9 for students and seniors. Free with purchase of Mother’s Day Brunch or included with mansion admission on regularly scheduled tour days.
♦ (847) 362-3042;
Updated: May 9, 2013 1:39PM
Combine the wealth and lifestyle of “Downton Abbey” with the ’60s fashion of “Mad Men,” and you get the exhibit of Martha Weathered fashions at Cuneo Mansion.
“The Ladies of Cuneo: The Martha Weathered Fashion Collection” opens May 12 at Loyola University Chicago’s Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills. The exhibit focuses on the styles of Weathered, whose upscale boutique on Michigan Avenue operated from 1922 until 1971.
“Weathered was a pioneer in the boutique fashion world,” said Emilie Stallman, curator of the exhibit as well as a senior at Loyola University. “She was an importer, not a designer. Her role was to select fashions from overseas, primarily from France, and make them available here at her shop.”
Prior to importers such as Weathered, upper class women would go overseas, on what was called a Grand Tour, to buy fine designer clothes. With the opening of local boutiques, women were able to buy ready-to-wear and custom-made clothing without the European visit.
“She made haute couture more accessible,” said Stallman.
The Cuneo exhibit focuses on the collection of Josephine Shephard, sister of Julia Cuneo and sister-in-law of John Cuneo Sr., owners of the estate. Josephine frequently spent summers at the home, even keeping her own room in the mansion.
Weathered’s clothing was high-fashion and high-quality, harking back to a time when clothes were more fragile than they are today. Each piece was painstakingly constructed, with small, precise seams and delicate cuts and stitches.
“Back then, many clothes were made to fit. Only in the 1950s did clothing become more off-the-rack,” said Stallman. “So you don’t find size labels, only the designer’s name.”
The exhibit focuses on the fashion of the 1950s and 1960s and Stallman anticipates pleasant surprises, even from people who remember those decades.
“A lot of people think they know about 1960s fashion,” said Stallman. “But this allows them to take a step back and look at it with a contemporary set of eyes — what it actually looked like versus our memories and expectations.”
And the fashions help bring the Cuneo Mansion alive. Much of the home is restored to how it was when it was the Cuneo residence. The family was surrounded by elegant antiques and art and their clothing was appropriately reflective of the rest of their life.
“The home is a bit of a time capsule,” said Kevin Ginty, general manager at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, noting that objects in the home are left just as the Cuneos left them, down to the hairbrush on the dresser. “There’s a lot of interest of what it was like back in those days, particularly how wealthy women dressed. The exhibit is a perfect fit for his home.”
After Weathered’s death in the 1940s, her husband Frank Cole continued the business keeping all her practices and methods. His family helped with this exhibition, contributing personal items and helping piece together the history. The shop burned down in 1971 but the sign was salvaged and other memorabilia will be on display from the time, including mailings and advertisements.
This is the first exhibition since Loyola took over operations of the mansion and grounds.
“We’ve been trying to connect with the university and get the Loyola students involved,” said Ginty. “For members, it keeps the home interesting and it’s a great experience for the students.”
Laura Amann is a local free-lance writer.