Fashion History (Part 2)

By Mary-Katherine Whelan, Intern

Mary-Katherine has been interning at the Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol since May and is currently enrolled in the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College. A graduate from the Arts Management Program at the University of Toronto, she has previously worked for the National Historic Sites Alliance of Ontario, the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Niagara Historical Society, and Great North Artist Management. In part two of this two-part series, she details some of the many online museum collections of vintage fashion. 

Online Museum Collections

Over the last ten years cultural and historic institutions have gradually photographed and made their costume collections accessible online. There is a great wealth of resources available online that I regularly consult when I’m stumped.

mannequin wearing silk outfit

Evening ensemble designed by Nabob, about 1927: V&A Collection

Victoria and Albert Museum has a great collection available online. The collections made available span from 18th century to 20th century fashion, and include drawings, photographs, art work, and historical context and introduction for each collection.

brown beaded short sleeved dress

Evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent, 1967. The Museum at FIT.

The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) has, like the V&A, a comprehensive collection available online, which spans from the 18th century to the 21st century. What is unique about this collection is that it is very focused on costumes designed by noted fashion designers from the 20th century onward, and includes biographies of the designers. The collection has a searchable feature that is easy to use and can be narrowed down based on what you are specifically looking for.

The McCord Museum in Montreal has an online collection of costumes and textiles that are uniquely Canadian. Currently, the McCord Museum has over 900 images from their Costume and Textiles collection available online.  What is great about the McCord Collection is that visitors are able to download the images directly from the website and if interested can order high quality images from the collection.

Finger-woven sash: Northern Plains Métis, c.1900-1910, McCord Museum.

The online collection of The Kyoto Costume Institute is much smaller than others on this list (200 items) but they have a great interactive timeline that you can click through for in-depth information about items from the collection including context, designer name (if applicable), materials used and date.

back of dress pop art design sun

Dress Coat, designed by Roy Lichtenstein (Textile), Lee Rudd Simpson c. 1965. Kyoto Costume Institute.

Current Exhibitions

The Museum at FIT has pulled  together a comprehensive list of fashion and historical costume related exhibitions from institutions around the world.

For local costume history, visit the dress shop display in the History Hall at the Huron County Museum and check out Fashion Fridays posts by summer student Tess Burnfield on the museum Facebook page.

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Dress shop display in History Hall Gallery, Huron County Museum

 

Fashion History (Part 1)

By Mary-Katherine Whelan, Intern

Mary-Katherine has been interning at the Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol since May and is currently enrolled in the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College. A graduate from the Arts Management Program at the University of Toronto, she has previously worked for the National Historic Sites Alliance of Ontario, the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Niagara Historical Society, and Great North Artist Management. In part one of this two-part series, she details some of her favorite books and blogs for researching the history of fashion. 

My love of historical fashion …

Fashions from the past can tell us a lot about the people that made the clothes, purchased them, and wore them. I’ve long been fascinated by historical fashions and over the years have researched and read copious amounts of books on the topic.

As an emerging museum professional I’ve found that my knowledge of historical fashions and dress have increased my ability to successfully date photographs and artifacts. During my schooling I had the privilege of working with a variety of artifacts like Victorian wedding gowns, glass buttons, purses, uniforms and some of the tools used to create clothing. I often fell back on several go-to books and websites to help pinpoint a time period when accession forms lack a discernable time period.

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Empire Fashions, a colouring book by Tom Tierney,

Book Resources

One of my first exposures to historical fashions were from Tom Tierney fashion plate colouring books and paper dolls. The more historically-oriented selections are drawings based on fashion plates from the Victorian era. As I grew older I started to seek out the sources that Tierney used as well as other books on the evolution and history of historic costumes and clothing. Some of my favourite publications are Tierney’s Empire Fashions Colouring Book, and Medieval Fashions Colouring Book. If you are interested in checking out some of Tom Tierney’s other publications, visit the Dover publications website.

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Fashion in Costume 1200-2000, Revised, by Joan Nunn, 2nd edition, 2000.

Another book that I  rely on is Joan Nunn’s Fashion in Costume 1200-2000, Revisedwhich chronologically details types of clothing styles while providing cultural and historical context with accompanying drawings. The book is easy to understand and doesn’t lose the reader with overly technical terminology. While not an exhaustive record, the book gives a good overview and serves as a great introduction.

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What People Wore When, Melissa Leventon, ed.

Additionally, What People Wore When – A Complete Illustrated History of Costume from Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century for Every Level of Society by Melissa Leventon is an amazing visual resource. Using classic 19th century illustrations by Auguste Racinet and Friedrich Hottenroth the book presents these illustrations chronologically while providing in depth contextual information, glossary of terms and a detailed bibliography to help better illustrate why people wore what they did and how certain styles have impacted fashion today.

Blogs

While not museum collections, these blogs are worth checking out! They feature examples of vintage or recreated historical fashions and are a good place for discovery, research, or inspiration.

The American Duchess
A blogger who designs and fabricates her own historical clothing

OMG That Dress
A tumblr blog devoted to sharing photographs of men and women’s fashions, plus jewelry and accessories

The Hidden Wardrobe
A blogger who works at Berrington Hall showcases and explores 18th century and 19th century costumes from the National Trust Collection

Worn Through
A blogger whose approach is more academic in scope and aims to spark discussion about current trends and topics