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Collection of fashion in Texas spans centuries

Posted at 8:18 AM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 10:18:52-04

DENTON, Texas – Get ready for some major closet envy. An impressive collection of clothing, shoes and accessories archives hundreds of years of fashion history. Some even go back 1,000 years.

Step inside the 13,000 square foot space and you’ll find endless racks of clothing and accessories packed from floor to ceiling.

“These are important parts of fashionista history that need to be preserved,” said Annette Becker, the director of the Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas.

The entire collection has been built through donations.

“We have pieces that are examples of French couture from the most elite parts of the fashion design world to things that were made on someone's kitchen table by their grandmother,” said Becker.

Started in 1938, UNT took custody of the collection in 1972. Since then it has grown to nearly 20,000 garments and accessories including 1,400 pairs of shoes, 2,500 hats and 750 handbags.

Becker proudly shows off some of the collection’s most prized possessions.

“This is a dress that Audrey Hepburn wore in the final scene of the film Charade and it was donated to us by Hubert de Givenchy who designed most of Audrey Hepburn's clothing for film,” she said.

“We have a wide variety of examples from throughout fashion history in our collection and the oldest piece we have is a pre-Colombian textile fragment that's around 1,000 years old. We have to keep this really carefully stored in this acid free cardboard,” she explains.

The piece was woven before synthetic dyes were even created.

“So that red color really meant power and status,” said Becker.

Today, the archive that spans primarily over 250 years is a valuable historical resource for researchers and students.

But right now, it’s only available to visiting designers and research students. The ultimate goal is to document everything in the collection and make it accessible to anyone around the world.

“Whether that's 8-year-olds who are thinking about a future career in fashion design to fashion curator curators from Paris who have come to our collection to do research,” said Becker.

That means having every single item photographed and digitized so that anyone can see the collection online.

Megan DeSoto, an Adjunct Photography Instructor at UNT, is spearheading the effort.

“We're taking a lot of time to make these really high-resolution well-made photographs so that they're only handled once photographed once and then taken back to where they're being preserved,” said DeSoto.

It’s a unique repository that Becker says will preserve centuries of fashion for generations to come.

“Often in the world of fashion we think about these really elite designers and people walking the runways in Paris but really clothing is an art form that's in our everyday lives.”