Thanks to designers who routinely revive styles from past decades, American consumers are well schooled in the diversity of silhouettes that defined 20th-century fashion. But they're much less familiar with the trends of the 1800s. "Beauty and Style in 19th Century American Fashion," opening this weekend in Phoenix Art Museum's Fashion Design Gallery, demonstrates not only how much Americans cared about fashion even back then, but how clothing chronicles culture.Curator Dennita Sewell selected a dozen outfits from among several hundred items in the museum's fashion collection, including both common garments and high-end, ready-to-wear pieces. Arranged chronologically, the variety of looks charts developments such as the invention of the sewing machine.
Nineteenth-century fashion is "at once democratic and at once a symbol," Sewell says. She explains that the introduction of mass-produced clothing helped blur class divisions that were more rigidly pronounced in Europe. It also ushered in a new era of department stores, which became a sign of progress in America's flourishing urban centers.
"It's important to remember that these are not costumes. These were people's clothes," says Sewell. "And they had the same social, cultural and emotional impact as clothes do today."- Michele Laudig
Desert Botanical Garden celebrates the chile and chocolate
Serving up sugar and spice and everything tasty, "Olé Mole! A Celebration of Chiles & Chocolate" returns to the Desert Botanical Garden this Saturday, November 15, and Sunday, November 16. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., jazz musicians provide a soundtrack as guests sample chile and chocolate goodies, watch Valley chefs concoct chile and chocolate creations, and shop for holiday gifts involving -- that's right -- chiles and chocolate. Call 480-941-1225 for details. - Jill Koch
Downtown's air apparent
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"At any time of the day, it's commonplace to look up and see aircraft traveling across the skies," says Herb Zinn of the Arizona Commemorative Air Force at Falcon Field. "Most of us don't even think about the uniqueness of flight." As part of the U.S. Centennial of Flight, the CAF's new downtown aviation exhibition includes hands-on displays, artwork, photography, model building and multimedia presentations spotlighting Arizona's aviation leaders and the role of women in flight. The exhibition runs through December 21 in the upper level of the Arizona Center, 455 North Third Street. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. For details visit www.arizonawingcaf.org.- Quetta Carpenter
Extreme author esteems gravity
Most 37-year-old women would vote to repeal the law of gravity, but not Marla Streb. Scientist turned champion downhill mountain bike racer, Streb is attracted to gravity, as she proved by plunging down the Austrian Alps to win the 2003 World Cup, racing an icy bobsled course for IMAX, and charging on two wheels down a mine shaft in Germany. Phoenix may prove a little flat for her taste, but at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 13, she'll be at Barnes & Noble, 21001 North Tatum, to autograph her book Downhill: The Lifecycle of a Gravity Goddess.The book isn't all about racing -- Streb writes about training as a classical pianist, losing someone close to her, and traveling the U.S. in a Volkswagen bus. Downhill is about focus, determination and exploiting a force that often sucks. For more information, call 480-538-8520 or see www.marlastreb.com.- Kim Toms