Dear ACI Members,

Welcome to the Arizona Costume Institute’s spring season!    

The flamboyant and energetic Hilton brothers, Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg, kicked off the season in style for our 2nd Wednesday luncheon and lecture series in January.  Arriving at the luncheon in custom matching suits, they greeted each table of guests with witty conversation and interest.  The lecture to follow was fun and provided bits of backstory to their artistic photographs. 

You won’t want to miss our upcoming February 8 luncheon and lecture featuring author Rose Apodaca, who tells the story of Hollywood style setter Fred Hayman from her book “Fred Hayman: The Extraordinary Difference”.  Book signing to follow.  During this luncheon, ACI will hold a committee expo. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteer opportunities and the various ACI Committees, please join us.  Committee representatives will be on hand to answer questions and assist with sign up for the coming 2017-2018 year.

February's book club discussion centers on “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster” by Dana Thomas.  This book contains a section on Fred Hayman, the subject of February’s 2nd Wednesday lecture, and his landmark shop, Giorgio of Beverly Hills.  Please join us for this gathering on February 22, the last Wednesday of the month, at 10 AM in the conference room of the administration building.

If you have not yet explored the Eye on Fashion: The Kelly Ellman Collection in the Ellman Fashion Design Gallery, you will want to do so soon.  It is a cheerful, fun and colorful exhibition to view and is sure to bring a smile to your face.  This exhibition will be up through February 26.

The following is the ACI schedule at a glance through February:


Feb. 8             2nd Wednesday luncheon and ACI Committee Expo 11:30,                         Great Hall

                        Lecture, Whiteman Hall, Fred Hayman: The Extraordinary                           Difference by author Rose Apodaca, 12:30 PM.

                        Book signing to follow.


Feb. 22          Book Club, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster” by Dana                           Thomas

                      10 AM, conference room


Dec. 3-           Eye on Fashion:  The Kelly Ellman Collection

Feb. 26          Ellman Fashion Design Gallery

I look forward to seeing you at upcoming events.  Thank you all so much for your interest and support. 


Best Regards,


Ronna Beeson

ACI President 2016-2017


The November 4th First Friday at Phoenix Art Museum will be one for the books as it will be the first time the public will be able to see Emphatics: Avant Garde Fashion of 1963-2013.

In 2015, Phoenix Art Museum acquired an extensive archive of avant-garde fashion collected by James and Karin Legato who owned and operated Emphatics, an exclusive store in Pittsburgh. Featuring works by designers such as Azzedine Alaïa, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, John Paul Gaultier, and Romeo Gigli, along with original runway show invitations, videos, and accessories.

Over the upcoming weeks we will be sharing insight and behind the scenes looks to our upcoming exhibition so be sure to check back every Friday for the latest look into Emphatics!


In remembrance of Bill Cunningham, a true fashion icon and New York Times photographer, our Curator of Fashion Design, Dennita Sewell would like to share a special photo and personal note that Mr. Cunningham hand delivered to her in 1995, while she was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Cunningham photographed Dennita at the Costume Institute's opening gala for Orientalism: Visions of The East in Western Dress. Bill was impressed by that jacket Dennita was wearing which she made and modeled after Christian Dior's "New Look."

Here is what the note Bill wrote to Dennita (written on the back of the image below) says:

Dear Dennita,
What a joy seeing the results of your work. Dior would have approved of the tailoring. The pattern matching on the seams...the shape of your jacket and most of all the refinement. The further we get from the 1947 new look the more people seem to exaggerate and vulgarize what was so elegant and refined in Dior’s original. You have captured all that Dior presented.
If you kids have time, I would enjoy a fashion table lunch at your museum lunch room. Call and leave a message when it would be convenient. I was sorry the paper did not use this print but they try not to use photos of people looking in the camera lens.
Best regards,


Phoenix Art Museum Receives $2 Million Endowment Benefiting Fashion Design

Phoenix Art Museum Receives $2 Million Endowment Benefiting Fashion Design

Donation in honor of Arizona Costume Institute’s 50th anniversary will support curator of fashion design

Phoenix Art Museum announced this weekend that it has received a $2 million endowment from Jacquie Dorrance, longtime Museum patron and member of Phoenix Art Museum’s Board of Trustees. One of the largest gifts the Museum has received in recent years, the endowment commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Arizona Costume Institute and the 16-year tenure of Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design. It will provide a permanent funding source for the curator of fashion design position which will be named the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design.

“Jacquie Dorrance’s vision, leadership and profound generosity will have a transformative impact on the Museum’s ability not only to develop fashion exhibitions and programming, but to retain and invest in our curatorial talent for decades to come,” said Amada Cruz, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director. “At Phoenix Art Museum, we are truly humbled by the largesse of our donors, whose support enables us to make our most ambitious goals a reality.”

Mrs. Dorrance and her husband Bennett have supported Phoenix Art Museum for nearly four decades, and Mrs. Dorrance has served as a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees since 1999, also serving as chair of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary gala in 2009. Passionately committed to the arts in Arizona, Mrs. Dorrance has also been a longtime patron of the Arizona Costume Institute (ACI). ACI was instrumental in the establishment of the fashion design collection in 1966, and has continued to raise funds that enabled the expansion of the collection, exhibitions, and programs. This endowment recognizes ACI’s lasting commitment and aids the continuation of their work by providing funding in perpetuity for the the curator of fashion design position.

“I am pleased not only to support fashion design at Phoenix Art Museum and celebrate the contributions of Arizona Costume Institute, but also to recognize the exceptional talents, leadership and unparalleled commitment of Dennita Sewell, whose dedication has enabled the Museum to expand its collection and develop world-class exhibitions,” said Mrs. Dorrance.

Sewell has held the curator of fashion design position at Phoenix Art Museum since 2000. She came to the Museum from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she managed that august institution’s extensive costume collection. Over the nearly two decades at Phoenix Art Museum, she has organized and curated 40 exhibitions, including Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, Chado Ralph Rucci, and most recently, The White Shirt According to Me. Gianfranco Ferré. Through her work both with donors and international fashion houses, Sewell has played a key role in the evolution of the fashion design collection, now numbering more than 5,000 objects, elevating its prestige and infusing the historical collection with contemporary objects from some of the most recognized names in couture.

This gift ensures that the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design will continue to lead research and scholarship in this collection area and to develop internationally-acclaimed exhibitions, presenting fashion in all of its complexity and nuance, and allowing visitors to find new connections between the past and the present everyday.