Jacobson’s retro style returns with two events

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 4, 2019

 Famed 1960s and 1970s fashion designer Steven Burrows was the first African American designer to have his collections sold in mainstream stores, like the Birmingham Jacobson’s.

Famed 1960s and 1970s fashion designer Steven Burrows was the first African American designer to have his collections sold in mainstream stores, like the Birmingham Jacobson’s.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Museum

  Jacobson’s department store in Birmingham was the “unofficial  flagship” of the brand,  according to historians.

Jacobson’s department store in Birmingham was the “unofficial flagship” of the brand, according to historians.

Photos provided by the Birmingham Museum

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BIRMINGHAM — Just in time for the downtown summer shopping season to really ramp up, the Birmingham Museum will host two fashion-forward — or rather, backward — events for people of all ages to enjoy.

To complement the museum’s new exhibition, “Experience Jacobson’s,” a look back at the city’s former bustling high-end department store, staff and historians have raided their closets and collections for artifacts and photographs from the store’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.

The first event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Baldwin Public Library, when museum historian Donna Casaceli will present a program called “Fash Bash at Jacobson’s.” Through slides, discussion and never-before-seen vintage fashion accessories donated recently to the museum, Casaceli will show guests why the Jacobson’s Birmingham location was one of the most important in the country for the company.

“It really was not the stuffy old store. It wasn’t just for the mothers. Jacobson’s was a place where really avant-garde shoppers could find styles that were right from the runway of New York,” she said.

With sections devoted to college-bound young women and wild off-the-runway looks, the Birmingham store was often home to meet-and-greet opportunities with the hottest designers, including Steven Burrows, the first African American fashion designer to have his line launched as a mainstream brand.

“He really pushed the ruffled edges, lettuce leaf edge. When people think of that summertime flowing look, that’s very much Steven Burrows. His designs were sheer chiffon, very feminine. I really love his stuff,” Casaceli said. “And Calvin Klein was apparently a very good-looking man. The Eccentric wrote about him back then that if women weren’t impressed with his clothing, they were certainly impressed with his looks. They all came to the store when he was in town.”

The Fash Bash will be followed up at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 15, with a presentation from local department store historian — yes, that’s a job — Bryce Kopytek, author of the book “Jacobson’s: I Miss It So!”

While he’s written several books about American department store giants like Hudson’s, Lord & Taylor, Crowley’s and Marshall Fields, the Birmingham Jacobson’s store stood out from the rest.

“The store was very important to the company. It was the unofficial flagship for the Jacobson’s brand,” he said in a prepared statement.

During that presentation, visitors will be able to purchase a copy of Kopytek’s book and have it signed during a special reception with the author. They’ll also have the chance to write or audio-record their fondest memories of Jacobson’s to be used in the museum’s exhibit.

Casaceli said that even younger generations who weren’t around to shop at Jacobson’s would enjoy both events, but in particular the Fash Bash, to see where their favorite vintage pieces originated from.

“These Throwback Thursday things are just more fun, and this one will definitely be fun. It’s a great way to learn about fashion history from the ’60s and ’70s, which I know is coming back now,” she said.

There is no cost to attend the Fash Bash at the library. Regular museum admission of $5-$7 will apply for Kopytek’s presentation.

For more information, visit bhamgov.org/history or call (248) 530-1928.

The Birmingham Museum is located at 556 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham.

The Baldwin Public Library is located at 300 W. Merrill St. in downtown Birmingham.

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