Marchesa is donating the iconic blue dress that played an integral role in the Warner Bros. Pictures film Crazy Rich Asians to the National Museum of American History. The dress will be presented May 18 during “The Party: A Smithsonian Celebration of Asian Pacific Americans,” a Los Angeles event hosted by the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center at City Market Social House. “The Party” will celebrate and recognize the many contributions of Asian Pacific Americans to history and culture across industries, including music, film, sports and culinary arts. Tickets are available at Smithsonianapa.org.
This blue gown is part of a pivotal moment in the film’s plot in which Rachel Chu, played by actress Constance Wu, attends a high-profile wedding in defiance of her boyfriend’s disapproving mother Eleanor Young, played by Michelle Yeoh. The gown is a floor-length Grecian-style dress made of light blue tulle with floral applique, a deep V-neck and a cinched waist. The original version of the dress designed by Marchesa for its fall 2016 collection featured long sleeves, but they were temporarily removed by the film’s production for aesthetic purposes. The museum will receive the altered sleeveless version that appeared in the film.
“The film’s use of fashion is not merely decorative or secondary,” said Theodore S. Gonzalves, curator in the Division of Culture and Community Life at the National Museum of American History. “The cast’s clothing plays a crucial role in marking social class among its characters—from multi-generational moneyed elites of Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese immigrants), to the nouveau riche strivers of Singapore, to working class Chinese immigrants in the United States and their Asian American model minority progeny.”
Crazy Rich Asians is notable for having a mostly East Asian cast, the first Hollywood film to do so since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. The Warner Bros. film grossed $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. The Crazy Rich Asians Marchesa gown joins a rich collection of museum artifacts with origins in film and entertainment such as Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, Batman’s cowl from Batman and Robin and a handmaid’s costume from The Handmaid’s Tale TV show. The museum’s Archives Center also has a number of other theatrical scripts, video and audiotapes in its Luther Davis Collection.
“Representation of Asian Pacific Americans in film and media is critical to the visibility of a community who has made many contributions to the arts,” said Lisa Sasaki, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “By collecting the film’s iconic dress, the Smithsonian is better able to present these contributions to the world.”
Marchesa is an American brand specializing in women’s wear based in New York City. Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig established it in 2004.
From its establishment in 1997 as an initiative critical to the mission of the Smithsonian until today, the vision for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has been to enrich the American story with the voices of Asian Pacific Americans. Asian Pacific America is the story of a vibrant, diverse and resilient set of communities that have been part of the American experience for more than 200 years. The center believes that people’s understanding of America and America’s standing in the world is richer, more compelling and more powerful when it includes the Asian Pacific American story. “The Party” also marks the launch of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Keystone Initiative, which is designed to rally support for the first permanent Asian Pacific American Gallery within the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center serves as a dynamic national resource for discovering why the Asian Pacific American experience matters every day, everywhere and all of the time.