An Artist’s Style: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Look

Many artists develop a signature style not just with their paintings but also with their clothing. Georgia O’Keeffe was no exception. In Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, an exhibit currently at the Brooklyn Museum, many of O’Keeffe’s signature pieces are on display. The show was curated by modernist scholar Wanda Corn. The exhibit is in Brooklyn through July 23rd and will go on a nationwide tour after that.

Georgia O'Keeffe | Photography | Alfred Stieglitz | black and white | portrait
Georgia O’Keeffe photographed by her husband Alfred Stieglitz. 1932.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Unique Style

The Living Modern exhibit showcases the persona that Georgia had. Georgia’s image was a cultivated one. It fascinated and inspired her fans, such as Carol Merrill. The museum show includes her clothes and personal artifacts as well as nearly 100 photographs, some taken by her husband Alfred Stieglitz and even a Polaroid shot by Andy Warhol in 1980.

Georgia’s creativity showed in the pieces she chose to wear, many she sewed herself. According to New Republic, the exhibit contains “a display case of her petite Ferragamo ballet flats in a variety of colors (when she found an item she liked, she repurchased it in many fabrics).”

Georgia O'Keeffe | Brooklyn Museum | artist style | fashion
Attributed to Georgia O’Keeffe. Blouse, circa early to mid- 1930s. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Photo by Gavin Ashworth. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum. The decoration at the center of this blouse recalls O’Keeffe’s paintings of crinkly-edged autumn leaves and corrugated seashells. The blouse and its ornament are shaped by tiny pintucks that look like the veins of a leaf. A conscientious mender of clothes she liked to wear, O’Keeffe meticulously patched the back of this blouse.
Emsley Suit. 1983. Shirt circa 1960s. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Photo by Gavin Ashworth. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum. Knize closed in New York in 1974, so O’Keeffe’s final suit purchase was from Emsley, another high-end men’s tailor in the city. In 1983, at the age of ninety-six, she ordered a black suit that included matching pants, vest, skirt, and jacket. Her wearing of pants with a matching jacket conformed to contemporary feminist practices that helped move women of all ages to adopt the elegance, comfort, and politics of pants. Her pant suits were another iteration of an androgynous look she had embraced her entire life.
Georgia O'Keeffe | Wrap Dress | Brooklyn Museum
Wrap dress circa 1960s-70s. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Photo by Gavin Ashworth. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum. O’Keeffe’s wrap dresses, which she often wore in layers or with a light blouse underneath, shaped her body into the form of a pyramid—lightly fitted above the waist and flared out below the belt. Like a kimono, they wrapped around her, but their fitted sleeves allowed her arms to move freely. The wrap dress was not only comfortable and easy to slip on and off; its simplicity allowed her to accessorize according to her own style, with one of her belts, her Calder pin, scarfs, or hats. She liked this design so much that it became something of a uniform for the next twenty years. She took a well-worn one apart and made a paper pattern from it so that local seamstresses could re-create it for her in different colors and materials.
Georgia O'Keeffe | Brooklyn Museum | artist style | fashion | O'Keeffe portrait
Todd Webb (American, 1905-2000). Georgia O’Keeffe on Ghost Ranch Portal, New Mexico, circa 1960s. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 9 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

She knew how she wanted the world to see her. Her paintings gave her wealth and fame. She was the highest-paid woman artist in New York City within a decade of moving there from Texas. She carefully crafted her self-presentation, giving the world a priestess of the desert with crepe dresses and work boots. Her art made her famous, but that signature style turned her into an icon.

Georgia O’Keeffe photographed by her husband Alfred Stieglitz. 1930.

Which outfit of O’Keeffe’s is your favorite? Comment with what you’d love to wear!

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