Crazy Rich Asians is making history once again as the iconic blue dress donned by Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu of Fresh Off the Boat fame, heads to the Smithsonian.
The Smithsonian Institute announced Wednesday that Marchesa would present the dress to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on May 18 during “The Party: A Smithsonian Celebration of Asian Pacific Americans,” a Los Angeles event hosted by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
The event will celebrate contributions of Asian Pacific Americans to history and culture across the music, film, sports and arts industries, just in time for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May. It will also mark the launch of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Keystone Initiative, which aims to rally support for the first permanent Asian Pacific American gallery at the museum.
The gown, with its deep V-neck and cinched waist, is a floor-length Grecian dress constructed with pale blue tulle and floral appliqué. It’s imbued with a feminine elegance reminiscent of a modern Cinderella dress and, like the Cinderella dress, has been lovingly mimicked by fans.
RACHEL CHU This movie was so freaking groundbreaking! I got to meet @constancewu a few years before @freshofftheboatabc and MAN what a hardworking/ determined woman. It was beyond inspiring to see her and the rest of the incredible cast of @crazyrichasians shine in their LEADING roles and kill it at the box office. Let’s keep going! #crazyrichasians #asiansinhollywood #ootd #sustainablefashion #zerowastefashion #recycledfashion #cosplay #casualcosplay #thredup #asianactress #proudasian #proudhapa #asianpacificamericanheritagemonth
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”...it was because of me: a poor, raised by a single mother, low class, immigrant nobody.” Loved this dress and loved this scene :) #crazyrichasians #constancewu #mahjong #grandmamadeherdress #ThreesHompany
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The dress also joins a rich collection of film artifacts in the museum, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, a handmaid’s costume from The Handmaid’s Tale, King T’Challa’s costume from Black Panther and more.
The original version of the blue gown was initially designed by the New York City-based women’s wear brand Marchesa with long sleeves for its fall 2016 collection but was later altered to be sleeveless for the film.
But it’s not all about aesthetics. In Crazy Rich Asians, fashion is telling of both the cultural and class differences that underlie 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, in a statement. “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 follows a professor from New York who struggles to earn the approval of her boyfriend’s wealthy relatives during a visit to Singapore.
The movie is notable for its almost entirely East Asian cast, the first Hollywood film of its kind since the 1993 film The Joy Luck Club. Raking in $238 million, the film became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade, proving movies with Asian-American casts can attract crowds that reach beyond the Asian-American community.
“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, in a statement. “By collecting the film’s iconic dress, the Smithsonian is better able to present these contributions to the world.”
Established in 1997, the center looks to enrich the American story with the voices of Asian Pacific Americans, just as Crazy Rich Asians sought to do.
“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,” a Smithsonian press release explains. “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.”
Tickets for “The Party: A Smithsonian Celebration of Asian Pacific Americans” are available at Smithsonianapa.org.