Portrait of Aileen Pei, ca. 1950s. Courtesy of Patricia Pei.
This week we feature a collection of hand-tailored garments of Aileen Pei (1912-2016), the wife of Tsuyee Pei and stepmother of architect I. M. Pei. These garments were donated by her daughter and MOCA’s Board Trustee Patricia Pei. The MOCA team recently processed these clothing articles for permanent storage in the MOCA Collections and prepared a selection of them for exhibition at The Winter Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory.
The collection contains a total of 41 garments, 28 of which are qipaos while the other materials include complimentary trousers, shirts, jackets, and winter accessories. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to state that there is a color for every spectrum of the rainbow in this collection, from beautiful jade green to velvety black. Aileen’s dresses are very much representative of her cosmopolitanism and status as a socialite, as it combines fabric selections drawn from New York, the expert craftsmanship of Hong Kong, and design influences from China’s fashion capital, Shanghai.
Select pieces of Aileen’s dress were selected for display at the annual Winter Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. The exhibit, entitled How We Dressed in the Beautiful Country: Selections from the Museum of Chinese in America’s Fashion and Costume Collections, is a capsule exhibition where opera costumes from our CMTA (Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association) collection will be displayed alongside Aileen’s qipaos. This exhibit will be on display from January 20-29.