Sitting Pretty | The Reader's Guide Feature | Chicago Reader

What to wear for the portrait? Mary Cassatt must have put the question to herself before she picked the gold-ribboned bonnet and shapely blue-green dress she immortalized in her watercolor self-portrait from about 1880. That work, along with William Zorach's sketch of Edna St. Vincent Millay in a provocative silk robe and Charles Dana Gibson's pencil drawing of Teddy Roosevelt and his starchy military uniform, is on display in the Elmhurst Art Museum's exhibit Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery. The traveling show of 50 works on paper from the Smithsonian includes likenesses by Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, and Andy Warhol, and portraits of John Steinbeck, Stokely Carmichael, and Hart Crane (who handled the clothing quandary by not wearing any). Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet position (appointed Secretary of Labor in 1933), wore a black suit, tricorn hat, and string of pearls for her sitting--a "trademark" outfit she's said to have adopted to present a nonthreatening appearance as she assumed power in a man's world. This weekend, the Women's Auxiliary of the Elmhurst Symphony Association will hold a fund-raiser that includes breakfast, a look at the portraits, and, for contemporary power dressers, a fashion show. It starts at 8 AM on Saturday, November 2, at the museum, 190 Cottage Hill in Elmhurst. Tickets are $30; call 630-833-4421. "Eye Contact" continues through January 5; regular museum hours are 10 to 4 Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; 1 to 4 Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Museum admission is $3, $2 for students, and free for children under 12.

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