The long-anticipated exhibition, Girlhood: (It’s Complicated, launched online to worldwide audiences on October 9, 2020. The launch event included performances and remarks from an inspiring line-up including: Little Rock Nine member and school desegregation icon, Minnijean Brown-Trickey; Founder and CEO of Girls Computing, Kavya Kopparapu; singer/songwriter Tayla Parx; and transgender advocate Jazz Jennings.
The opening was delayed due to the pandemic, however, it has only increased in relevance as social justice, environmental, and education issues gain prominence in the national conversation, one which is often led by girls. Girlhood highlights how girls have always shaped American history and culture, and thanks to the work of the Smithsonian’s 3D team, you can experience some of the remarkable garments in the exhibit—some of which are open access—up-close from home, right down to the stitching:
- Professional skateboarder Cindy Whitehead’s team uniform. As she shares in the launch video, Whitehead modified it to fit her body since there were no skater uniforms made for girls at the time.
- A micro-miniskirt designed by Rudi Gernreich. Gernreich crafted the skirt to be unisex since he sought to detach clothing from gender. This object is part of Smithsonian Open Access.
- A three-piece gym suit from around 1860 which was seen as a bold move for women of that day. Curator Kathy Franz talks about this in the launch video and it’s part of Smithsonian Open Access.
- A 1959 high school graduation dress designed by Minnijean Brown-Trickey, member of Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students who enrolled at the formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The tea-length dress is part of Smithsonian Open Access and you can hear her story in the launch video.
If you’re local to Washington, D.C., check out the exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Girlhood: (It’s Complicated) was supported by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.