Registration is Open for 2015 Fashion: Now & Then: Passé, Presente, 未来

October 22-24, 2015

New York City, NY, U.S.A.

The Adrian G. Marcuse Library at LIM College is excited to host the fifth annual Fashion: Now & Then Conference, a three day conference in which participants will discuss the past, present, and future uses of fashion information and the global reach that the fashion industry possess. Participants will be drawn from the fashion industry, libraries, archives, academic institutions, publishers, collectors, and museums to represent a full range of expertise.

The theme for this year’s Fashion: Now & Then Conference is Passé, Presente, 未来. We are looking forward to presentations that will demonstrate how fashion information and the global reach of the fashion industry has evolved through time and how it will continue to evolve in the future.

For more information on the conference, please check out the Fashion: Now & Then blog.

For more information on the schedule, please check out the Adrian G. Marcuse Library website. You can register here.

Can’t Wait to Get My Hands On…. 10 Best Practices for a Costume Collection Research Visit

Does your heart sing when you imagine going to a museum to see a child’s sampler from 1757? Do you dream of getting a good look in those incredible store-room drawers of linens and gowns and hats?  I have been doing a lot of this for my current research on 18th C caps.  Here are some things I think are Best Practices to follow.

1. First, dig deep into the institution’s web page. If there is an online catalog, use it. Do not to ask the curator to do work you can do yourself.

Learn the policies regarding research visits: specific times, fees, forms, etc.

See if they have an institutional library; it may have unique resources, such as in-house reports or picture files. Do you need a separate appointment to use the library?

Discover the best contact person to receive your request to visit.

Consider bringing a colleague who has done this before and can help you the first time out. (Thank you, Sharon!)

2. Now you are ready to e-mail an informed request. Be as specific as possible. Tell them what you want to do: see, measure, pattern, photograph, etc. Tell them where you have already been to show you have some experience.

The online catalog is often not exhaustive; say, “I found this item that I am interested in, are there others like it?”

Ask about policies you could not locate: fees, forms, etc.

Suggest possible times to come visit, and be flexible.

3. Gather the tools you will need: loop, graph paper, pencils, camera, measure, gloves? (And be prepared to leave any or all of these articles in the locker as per policy.) Test your camera settings ahead of time; bring extra batteries.  Bring a flashlight for picture lighting.  Make yourself a checklist of what you want to examine in each item.

Bring the e-mail and phone number of your contact. Find out where you may park, which entrance to come to, and at exactly what time. Print off maps or set your GPS. Bring change for the meter.

4. Be on time. Find your contact person and do what they say. Ask again about policies and procedures. (You should already know these things, but make sure, in person, that you understand.)

If you are making a full day of it, ask when and how you may leave to eat lunch – and take your contact person out to eat.

Be ready for anything!  A volunteer might sit beside you all day, or you may be left alone in a room with a stack of boxes until closing time.  Some work rooms are roomy and sunlit; sometimes you work on top of a cabinet in the basement.

5. Be GENTLE and respectful of the materials. If you move the item, support all the cloth. Look at one item at a time, returning it to its box or stand when you are done.

Write the item’s number on a slip of paper that can be in every photo, to avoid confusion later. Photograph any accompanying documentation.

6. If your contact person is knowledgeable, ask permission to take some of their time today to discuss your research subject. Ask if they can refer you to other items, people, or collections.

7. Be done before your time is up. Don’t keep someone late at work today.

8. Write a thank you note. Send a donation to the foundation. When you go home, look over your notes, redraw your patterns, etc., as soon as possible.   Ask If the museum wants copies of your drawings, patterns, photos, etc., for their files.

9. Later, when you write up your research, give appropriate credit to the institution, and individuals who helped you. Follow their rules about publishing photos or academic vs. commercial uses.

10. Corrections and additions much appreciated! Tell us what you think.

Sherri B. Saines

Human and Consumer Sciences Librarian, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

photos: by Sherri Saines, DAR Collections, Washington, DC

Better Know an Electronic Fashion Resource

Curious about an electronic fashion resource that you’ve heard about but aren’t currently using? Thinking of trading in a tool you’re using now for something else? Maybe we can learn about some resources together! Have a look at this list, or suggest a resource we’ve missed. If there is enough interest, we’ll reach out to some of these companies and see if they’re willing to do a bit of show and tell for us with a webinar.

  • Trend Forecasting Databases:
    • Fashion Snoops
    • WGSN
    • Stylus
  • Research Databases:
    • Berg Fashion Library
    • ProQuest (WWD, Vogue Archives & Harpers Bazaar)
  • Tutorial Databases:
    • University of Fashion (streaming videos, flipped classroom)
  • Market Databases:
    • Mintel
    • GMID
    • MarketLine
    • RefUSA

An interview with Kristen Stewart @ the Valentine

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kristen Stewart, the Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Valentine museum. Originally from Richmond, Kristen has worked with several great costume collections including the MET Costume Institute before moving back to take the position at the Valentine last fall. Kristen was kind enough to take me on a personal tour of the current Classical Allure: Richmond Style show, and to answer some of my questions.

Libertas – knit garments from the 1970’s, providing freedom of movement for the body.*

Classical Allure is a small but engaging collection of items in an intimate setting that perfectly suits an exhibit showcasing fashion about and belonging to native Richmonders. The focus of the collection are the four goddesses representing Virginia on the state seal, Virtus (virtue / valor), Ceres (agriculture / fertility); Libertas (liberty) and Aeternitas (eternity). Through garments, sculpture, illustrations, needlepoint and more, the show tells a story about the way classical motifs were used to reflect ideals like beauty and freedom – at times when freedom did not extend to everyone, as during the Civil War or the Civil Rights era. How women were portrayed as warriors and amazons, icons representing victory while also being objectified or denied the same rights as men. Throughout the exhibit, one is reminded of how fashion exists at the intersection of art, design, culture and even politics, a marker of social and personal identity that makes viewing it in a museum special and yet more accessible than a painting or sculpture.

And now a little about Kristen…

Q: You worked in the fashion industry as a designer and illustrator before transitioning to the academic/archives/museum path. Why the change?

A: Kristen started out studying sociology as an undergraduate, but at the time it wasn’t quite right. She took a fashion history class at VCU as an extracurricular thing and LOVED it. She ended up getting a B.F.A. in Fashion Design from VCU, but always had an interest in the cultural/social aspects of fashion, so she got her M.A. from FIT in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory and Museum Practice. (Check her out on LinkedIn)

Virtus – channeling Diana, the Roman huntress goddess of the moon

Q: What is the strength of the costume/textiles collection at the Valentine?

A: It’s broad scope and the way it reflects the history of Richmond, from Court attire worn by Richmonders attending court events in varying countries (Lady Astor’s coronation robes for example) to T-shirts representing ephemera sold/given away at Richmond events and sports games.


Q: How did you decide on the classical theme for the show?

Ceres – dresses worn by women who nurtured and supported the Richmond community

A: Classical Allure was inspired by an exhibition at the MET called Goddess: The Classical Mode, curated by Harold Koda that traced the way that classical themes have influenced fashion from Greek and Roman times to today. Kristen, new to the Valentine last fall and trying to familiarize herself with the collection knew that it had to include items that reflected that influence, and that the classical theme is also resonant in the architecture, decorative art and ideals espoused by the founders of Virginia. She was able to pull aspects of all of this in to create the context for the show.

Q: What is your research process like?

A: When preparing for a show, Kristen refers to a variety of resources including exhibition catalogs to see what other museums are doing, JSTOR and primary sources like American Periodicals …and of course, she turns first and last to the rich collection of costume and textiles at the Valentine.

Aeternitas – the timeless look of classical drapery +

Q: Do you have a favorite period/style/designer?

A: Kristen likes transitional periods, those times in fashion where trends are taking shape and styles are experimental and not yet widely adopted. She does have a soft spot for designer Paul Poiret because his work is an example of this – weird, but in a good way!

Q: Any sneak peek into what you might do at the Valentine next?

A: The next costume show will focus on menswear, and how it reflects changing ideals of masculinity. Look out for it next Spring!

Garments like this helped American designers triumph over the French in The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in 1972, which was also notable for featuring African American models and the work of African-American fashion designer Stephen Burrowes.  The coral-colored dress in the Libertas photo above is by Burrowes.

+ The center dress in the Aeternitas photo above is an iconic Delphos gown by Fortuny, made of finely pleated silk.