NRF promotes and invests in the architectural heritage of the Newport community, the traditional building trades, and Doris Duke’s fine and decorative arts collections, for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, NRF supports research and education in areas directly related to its collections and issues of critical concern to the field of historic preservation.
Tour Doris Duke’s art-filled mansion and enjoy panoramic ocean views from the extensive grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Open late March to November.
Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts. Open late May to October.
Explore 40 acres of open space, a tribute to the agrarian heritage of Aquidneck Island. The site is open daily from dawn to dusk for public enjoyment.
Newport Restoration Foundation holds one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States.
Celebrate excellence in historic preservation efforts within the City of Newport, Rhode Island.
Live amidst history by renting one of our many historic properties.
Help us to continue a lived-in legacy by becoming a Restoration Partner today.
When someone asks me what some of the more interesting things in Doris Duke’s fashion collection are my usual answer is how many lesser-known designers are in it. This is a bit misleading because Doris Duke did have a fair amount of high-end, couture, and custom fashions in her Rough Point closets from big name designers that you would think of like Christian Dior and Balenciaga. I think the diverse range of designers in her wardrobe speak to Doris’s independence and her interest in supporting up and coming artists, both in the fashion world and as she did through her philanthropy within the music and dance world.
For a 1981 Met Gala (before Anna Wintour made it THE fashion event of the year), Duke chose to wear a relatively unknown designer, Dimitri Kritsas (born late 1930s), a fashion designer from Greece with only a small New York boutique. We don’t know how Doris Duke came upon the designer, but she made a big decision to wear his gown that evening and chose to be photographed wearing it.
Tina Leser (1910-1986), an American designer who is becoming more recognized in scholarly fashion history circles in the last decade or so, was clearly one of Doris Duke’s favorites. There are over a dozen items from Leser in the collection that span the range of her career and Doris’s life. It is possible the two women knew each other as they both spent considerable time in Honolulu prior to World War II; Leser and Duke likely would have been a part of the same social circles. There is still more research to be conducted on the extent of their relationship, including how long Doris was a client of the designer (much of Leser’s company archives are housed at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles). Leser’s design aesthetic fits well into Doris’s jet set lifestyle, interest in Eastern aesthetics, and the casual elegance of caftans, robes, and sundresses.
Some of the lesser-known designers in the Doris Duke fashion collection are items purchased on her world travels. Many of these items represent traditional dress of countries she visited, especially in Southeast Asia where Doris Duke spent considerable time in the 1960s and 1970s to build a collection of Southeast Asian art. Star of Siam (founded 1955 by Americans Vera & Lewis Cykman) was a Bangkok, Thailand-based silk company that specialized in custom tailored clothing in the Thai style. There are close to twenty pieces of fashion from this company, as well as many yards of Thai silk used in upholstery around Doris Duke’s homes, including the curtains in Doris’s bedroom at Rough Point.
Taj of India (founded 1950) is perhaps one of the most fascinating lesser-known designers in Doris Duke’s closet—a maker of a pair of shoes so beloved by Doris, she owned over 20 pairs of the pointy-toe flats in almost every color available! Taj Tajerie, a female designer from India, created the brand. Doris purchased them from small boutiques and well-known department stores both in Hawaii and in New York like M. M. Merry, Ltd. and Nordstrom. A fun fact about this brand- the designer created all the shoes for the show I Dream of Jeannie!
There’s an old adage that you can learn a lot about people of the past through looking at their clothes. If you look at the many items of Doris Duke’s clothing collection, you would learn that her clothing is almost as eccentric as the woman herself – and these pieces hold many memories and stories we are still learning about today.
By Kristen Costa, Senior Curator at Newport Restoration Foundation
We hope you will join us for the exciting variety of programs planned this month!