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The Collection

The collection includes illustrations 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. 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 such leading American designers as Claire McCardell, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, and Geoffrey Beene, as well as international designers like Yves St. Laurent, Mariano Fortuny, and Coco Chanel. Also included in the inventory are a number of textiles and clothing pieces from around the globe, including Japan, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Thailand.

Below is a snapshot of some of our holdings. You can learn more about what our collection includes by visiting the UGA Special Collections Library.

  • Long Gown

    1850-1879

    The Civil War began in 1861 and ended in 1865, heavily impacting the lives of those living during the time period. In fashion, the rise of the sewing machine allowed more decorative effects to be used in dress, and new aniline dyes paved the way for brighter shades of dress.

    This time is known as the Crinoline Period because cage crinoline made of whalebone or steel hoops replaced heavy layers of petticoats, and were commonly worn under dresses by women of the time.

    One trend that hit its peak in the 1870s was the bustle, an item women secured under the back portion of their skirts to add volume. In terms of silhouette, a narrow waist with a fitted bodice and full skirts was the recurrent style. Popular sleeve styles included pagoda sleeves, gathered bishop sleeves, and the coat sleeve. During the day, high necklines were appropriate, but women often wore lower necklines in the evening. Wraps and shawls were commonly worn, and accessories such as parasols, gloves, snoods, and bonnets were highly desired.

  • 1870s skirt

    1870-1900

    The years 1870-1900 include what is known as the Bustle period, in which the popular silhouette shifted from full skirts to a more fitted look characterized by fullness in the back. Throughout the Bustle period of the 1870s and 1880s, a variety of padded devices were utilized to create back fullness, as the bustle took on different forms. The bustle of the first stage (1870-1878) was achieved through manipulation of drapery and the use of decorative details such as flounces and bows at the back. From (1878-1883) fullness dropped to below the hips and decorative effects of the skirt became focused low as a result. Long trains and heavy fabrics also helped to emphasize the focus on the rear. The latter part of the decade (1884-1890) saw the bustle at its largest. Often referred to as the shelf bustle, it was rigid and took on the appearance of an almost horizontal projection. At this time, skirts shortened to several inches above the floor and rarely had trains, with the exception of some evening dresses.

    Additionally, they include the 1890's, which are often referred to as the Gay Nineties or La Belle Epoque. Times were good, Paris was the center of high fashion, and for those who could afford it, dress was lavish and highly decorative.

    The corset continued to be worn, aligning with the fashionable silhouette of a full bust and hips with a narrow waist. Dress ensembles typically consisted of two pieces -- a bodice and matching skirt. The one-piece princess dress, worn by some during the latter part of the period, was an exception. Bodices were often fitted, with the cuirass bodice style emerging from around 1878-1883. Sleeves were close-fitting and ended at either three quarters or at the wrist. Evening dresses were differentiated by their lavish trimmings, level of ornamentation, trained skirts, and short sleeves. Weighted silk offered greater body and was a popular choice for dresses beginning in the 1870s. Full sleeves were at their largest in 1895, before they gradually decreased in size towards the turn of the century. By the 1890s, sleeve with fullness were only seen with small puffs at the shoulders. Tailor-made costumes consisted of wool or serge skirts worn with a shirtwaist bloese. and were considered ideal for traveling. Shirtwaist blouses were often accessorized by cravats and jabots. The variety of outerwear for women increased during the late nineteenth century and was dominated by coats, jackets, and wraps. Accessproes of the period included small hats, gloves, muffs, decorative fans, and parasols.

  • Oversized Coat

    1900s

    The first decade of the twentieth century is often referred to as “La Belle Époque” - French for "the beautiful age." During this time, Paris reigned as the capital of art and fashion, extravagance and opulence was in, and French couture became all the rage. Edward VII became King of England with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, ushering in the “Edwardian Era.” Additionally, Henry Ford's Model-T was introduced in 1908.

    Art Nouveau influenced fashion and ornamentation with the popularity of curvy shapes, floral prints, and ornamentation. And with the introduction of Ford's Model-T, "motoring garments", such as duster coats and goggles, became essential for automobile riding.

    The dominant silhouette of the period was the S-bend hourglass shape, which was achieved through the use of long bell or trumpet skirts that swept the ground, and the “monobosom” fullness of the front bodice. Voluminous sleeves were another popular feature of turn-of-the-century fashion. Women still wore tightly-boned corsets, along with layers of petticoats. Two-piece ensembles were introduced, consisting of a skirt and a shirtwaist blouse. Garments often featured necklines with high standing collars for daytime and exceptionally low décolleté necklines for evening wear. Lingerie dresses — flowing white gowns with lace detailing — were a popular choice for outdoor hot weather. Pale colors and un-patterned fabrics adorned with lace or embroidery were favored in this style. Shoes and boots exhibited pointed toes, and parasols were a must-have accessory for outdoors.  Elaborate, often large hats decorated with bird feathers enjoyed heightened popularity.

  • White Top

    1910s

    The War Years (1914-1918) resulted in simpler styles, with moderation in fabric usage as well as the use of darker hues. As a result, garments of this period often have a more utilitarian and masculine appearence.

    The “teens,” as the 1910s are often referred to, saw sweeping changes in fashion due to the work of French designer Paul Poiret, who was largely inspired by both the exoticism and color of the Far East and the Ballet Russes. “Orientalism” in fashion became all the rage and was seen in kimono-shaped coats, capes, saturated colors, and exotic embellishments.

    Popular trends included the “peg-top” silhouette with hip fullness, Paul Poiret’s narrow-at-ankle “hobble skirt”, and Mariano Fortuny’s “Delphos gown” which featured his secret pleating technique. Tunic dresses were also introduced, and featured a short skirt layered over a longer one. Necessitated by the new shapes in fashion, the hourglass S-bend silhouette transitioned into a more column-like, tubular form with a higher waistline. Brassieres replaced tight corsets and accommodated the soft, unfitted tea gown, a popular choice for afternoon hosting. The wide-brim hat continued to be a fashionable accessory and shoes began to replace boots. 

  • green gown

    1920s

    The year 1920 marked the beginning of Prohibition, as well as the end of the Suffrage Movement, with women gaining the right to vote. King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, further fueling the taste for the exotic, and creating an obsession with all things Egyptian. The Harlem Renaissance ushered in the Jazz Age; sleeveless dresses with shorter hemlines and sequin, bead, and fringe embellishment enhanced and enabled the fast-paced dance movements of the Charleston and Fox Trot. 

    The "Roaring Twenties" were years of major change for both fashion and society. Besides major cultural events inspiring change, fashion was also influenced by Art Deco through the use of straight lines and geometric forms in both silhouette and decoration.

    The twenties silhouette was straight and tubular, and dresses deemphasized female curves, breasts, and hips. Chemise dresses hung straight from the body and helped created this fashionable linear silhouette. The “flapper,” with her bobbed-hair and boyish silhouette, became the epitome of the fashionable look of the period. Hemlines rose, revealing more of the female leg for the first time in dress history, and shifting the focus to shoes for the first time.

    During the period, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel popularized costume jewelry — as well as wool jersey suits. The cloche, a bell-shaped hat, was “the” hat to have. Small beaded purses and long beaded necklaces were popular accessories.

  • floral gown

    1930s

    The defining event of the 1930s was the Great Depression. The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression created a need for less expensive garments without elaborate ornamentation. Designers of the period therefore relied on seam lines and darts as major forms of embellishment. Clothing that was cheaper and diversified was critical, thus creating the need for ready-to-wear fashion.

    The overwhelming popularity of the movies in the 1930s helped perpetuate the ideals of “Hollywood glamour.” Women began looking to screen stars for inspiration in fashion, hairstyles, makeup, and even demeanor. The movies, and the glamorous lifestyle they portrayed, were a way for the public to escape the harsh realities of the Depression. Designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli incorporated concepts of Surrealist Art into fashion designs, offering fantastical creations that also provided a flight from reality. The 1930s also saw the birth of American sportswear and two-piece bathing suits for women.

    The decade saw a continuation of the linear shape of the 1920s, but with a leaner, longer, more feminine silhouette. The waistline returned to its natural position and hemlines dropped. Evening fabrics tended to be pale or white solids of silk or satin, and the backless evening gown was introduced at this time. French designer Madeleine Vionnet created the “Bias Cut”, which produced a “liquid” clinging effect on the body. Hats of all varieties were widely worn, and a right-angle tilt was a common way hats were styled. Shoes featured low heels and rounded toes. Costume jewelry and fur added the final touch of fashionable glamor.

  • pink gown

    1940s

    World War II began in 1939, ushering in a new conservatism in fashion. Fashion designers were forced to close their houses in Paris, and “practicality” became the new buzzword in fashion, with a focus on producing sensible styles and “utility garments” which required a minimum quantity of fabric. In the United States, the L-85 Limiting Order aimed to freeze the war-time silhouette and stop rapid seasonal changes in styles in order to conserve fabric use. Tailored suits and military-influenced styles were seen in items such as belts, breast pockets, high necklines, and small collars. Both ctlohing and hair were influenced by the war. For women who worked in factories, superfluous decoration and long hair posed safety threats. Hairstyles and makeup became an integral way to achieve personal style, since clothing and accessories were rationed.

    Hollywood stars such as Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, and Bette Davis were significant influencers of fashion. American designers began developing sportswear collections, spurred by the necessity of the war-time focus on the ideals of simplicity and utility. Casual separates, shirtwaist dresses, slim skirts with patch pockets, and halter and square necklines became popular. Women could also be seen wearing trousers, although it was mainly for utilitarian purposes, not everyday wear. 

    The 1940s silhouette was tailored and narrow, with a nipped-in waistline and squared shoulders achieved through the use of shoulder pads. Hemlines rose to just below the knee. In light of rationed fashion, hats allowed an individual fashion statement, and small styles such as veiled pillboxes and berets, often worn at a right angle, were most popular. Shoes were usually chunky with rounded toes and featured either low-heeled or wedge soles. Leg makeup was also introduced and offered women a remedy to the rationing of nylon stockings. 

  • gown

    1950s

    The 1950s were a time of large cultural and social change, which was reflected in the world of fashion. The Korean War began in 1950, followed by the introduction of the color TV in 1951. And in 1954, the modern civil rights movement began.

    As the suburbs became popular, family and domesticity for women became a prominent force in society. Additonally, teenagers became fashion consumers and market leaders for the first time. Due to technological advances, new fibers such as polyester, triacetate, and spandex are introduced. 

    The prominent trend of the time was femininity, as shown by the prominence of Christian Dior's "New Look". Shape was emphasized by full swing skirts or narrow pencil skirts, as well as fitted bodices and a small waistline achieved with the help of petticoats and girdles. Elegant accessories and jewelry such as hats and pearls were popular at the time, and high heels were ubiquitous. Other trends included Peter Pan collars, tapered or capri pants, and the introduction of the bikini. 

  • paper dress

    1960s

    The Beatles led the music and fashion “British Invasion,” influencing teenagers with their Mod aesthetic. The Civil Rights movement led to the popularity of ethnic and African-inspired garments such as dashikis and caftans.

    The 1960s were marked by eclecticism, both in fashion and society. A plethora of styles were fashionable at one time, ranging from space age fashions using vinyl and synthetics, to bold prints, colors, and disposable paper dresses inspired by Pop Art. Mod fashion appeared on the London scene, with fashion designer Mary Quant as the “high priestess” of the style, and Twiggy as its supermodel. Boutiques, a 1960s creation, began offering designer ready-to-wear collections, while easy-care fabrics were increasingly used by the general public.

    Longer hemlines were dominant with maxi skirts and granny dresses, while hot pants and mini skirts were adopted by the younger market. These shorter hemlines popularized the use of pantyhose for modesty. As the decade progressed, chemise dresses that typified the dominant straight A-line silhouette became popular. Turtleneck blouses and sweaters were common, and sleeves were usually three-quarter length. Sleeveless tops were worn after the mid 1960s. Jacqueline Kennedy became a major fashion icon, famous for her sophisticated style, pillbox hats, and pearls. Overall, hats in general experienced a decline in use, due to the popularity of high bouffant hairstyles. Knee high go-go boots were popular, patent was often used, and low-heeled, square-toed shoes were common. Popular accessories included headbands, bold jewelry, and matching shoes and handbags.

  • brown dress

    1970s

    During the 1970s, the eclecticism of the previous decade continued, and influences from subcultures dominated fashion. The Vietnam War ended in 1973, and the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1974.

    The hippie subculture emphasized environmental awareness and social acceptance, translating into the popularity of natural fibers and earth tones, loose garments, blue jeans, and ethnic influences in dress. Peasant blouses and skirts and psychedelic prints were popular, as well as historic revival styles. In the late 1970s, music styles such as glam rock, disco, and punk influenced fashion and resulted in flashy, often shocking styles.

    For the most part, clothing was loose and unstructured compared to previous decades. Skirts came in a variety of lengths — mini, midi, or maxi — although the mini and maxi were the most popular. Unisex styles in clothing became a trend and were perpetuated by Diane Keaton’s character in the 1977 film, Annie Hall. Trousers and blue jeans were worn by women more than ever before. Designer jeans arrived on the market, resulting in the birth of “licensing” for non-fashion products. Polyester was the other preferred textile for trousers.

  • black dress

    1980s

    With the rise of new media such as MTV, the 80s fashion landscape began to shift rapidly. The televised wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer caused a fashion frenzy, with "Lady Di's" elegant hats, tailored suits, and evening dresses making her a global style icon. 

    The 1980s were known as the "Me" Generation, with an emphasis on logos and designer labels. The decade also saw the rise of yuppie (young urban professionals) culture, and the introduction of the fitness craze. In the world of high fashion, postmodernism and avant-garde fashion were vastly influential. 

    With the introduction of yuppie culture, business attire and "power-dressing" with items like shoulder pads was a popular trend. In light of the fitness craze, leg warmers, tights, and leotards were widly worn, and women accessorized with big hair, flashy costume jewelry, and bright heels. In terms of undergarments, Madonna and Jean-Paul Gautlier inspired a underwear-as-outerwear trend alongside the popularity of Calvin Klein underwear.

  • denim dress

    1990s

    The 1990s reflected subcultures such as punk, goth, and grunge in fashion. Hip-hop music became popular and as a result, urban fashion was popularized. Unlike previous decades, the 1990s was notable for a more relaxed and casual look, as well as the introduction of technology such as cell-phones and pagers. With the rise of globalization and technology, the fashion cycle began to speed up. 

    1990s style was often considered "anti-fashion,"  with purposefully clashing or contradictory aesthetics. Black, minimalist styles were popular, as well as vintage and 1970s style. Many younger people sported crop tops, cargo pants, and blue jeans, and athletic wear in daily life. In terms of shoes, high heels, wedges, sandals, platforms, and sneakers were all widely worn.

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