The Historic Clothing and Textile Collection is a study collection of over 3000 garments, accessories, and textiles dating from the 1800s to now.
It includes women's, men's, and children's clothing and accessories (such as hats, shoes, and jewelry) as well as quilts and coverlets from the 19th century. In addition to clothing and textile artifacts, the collection also contains pictorial items that represent historic dress of the past two centuries, including magazines such as Vogue and authentic photographs.
The collection includes examples of everyday and ceremonial dress from the 19th and 20th centuries. Highlights from the 19th century include a printed cotton dress from the 1830s, a man's beaver skin stove pipe hat, a child's outfit from the 1880s, a Mother Hubbard dress from the 1890s, and wedding and christening gowns. Other items of note include a woman's automobile duster, Edwardian dresses and skirts, 1920s flapper dresses, tailored women's suits from the 1940s, and paper dresses from the 1960s. The collection incorporates examples of ready-to-wear garments from leading American designers such as Claire McCardell, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, Mary McFadden, and Geoffrey Beene, as well as international designers Yves St. Laurent, Mariano Fortuny, and Sonia Rykiel. Also included in the inventory are a number of textiles and clothing pieces from around the world including Japan, Guatemala, Korea, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Thailand.
Most undergraduates in the department are required to take courses that use the collection as an educational resource and a primary source. The department also has a number of students pursuing a Masters degree in Historic Costume. Students from majors such as theater, fabric design, English, advertising, public relations, consumer journalism, women's studies, and history have all enrolled in the department's historic courses as upper level electives. The collection's laboratory space, separate from the storage area, is used by students engaged in activities such as garment accessioning and cleaning, exhibit staging, and primary source research. The area includes a collection of dress history books and vintage magazines available to any researcher upon request. An exhibit gallery, located in Barrow Hall, hosts an average of two historic clothing or textiles exhibits per semester.