The Historic Clothing and Textile Collection is a study collection of over 3000 garments, accessories, and textiles that date from the 1800s to the 1990s.
It includes women's, men's, and children's clothing, 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 mid-19th through 20th centuries, such as magazines, including Godey's and Vogue, as well as authentic photographs.
The collection includes examples of everyday and ceremonial dress from the 19th and 20th centuries. Highlights include a brown printed cotton dress from the 1830s, a man's beaver skin stove pipe hat from the early 19th century, a child's two-piece outfit from the 1880s, and a Mother Hubbard dress from the 1890s. Several 19th century wedding dresses, christening gowns, quilts and coverlets also make up the excellent collection. 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, and 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 historic clothing and textiles courses that used the collection as an educational resource for examples of primary sources. 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 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, shared with the Furnishing and Interiors program in Barrow Hall, hosts an average of two historic clothing or textiles exhibits per semester. The inaugural exhibit "Billy Carter's Wardrobe Revealed" offered a rare opportunity to preview objects housed at the Billy Carter Museum in Plains, Georgia.