New Five College Consortium Digital Project Examines Early American Fashion

DressScholars in the Five College Consortium (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts) in western Massachusetts have established a new online archive called Historic Dress: The Center for the Study of Clothing, Costume, Fashion and Culture. The project focuses on women’s clothing and accessories worn in America from 1770 to 1930. The founders of the archive state that they choose this period “because it is rich in documentary evidence, both written and pictorial, and because a large number of period garments survive in museums and private collections.” So far, they have limited the site to clothing related to the European fashion tradition because that is what most American women wore and what is preserved. The online archive now includes 353 digitized items that may be viewed here.

HistDressKiki Smith, a professor of theatre at Smith College and one of the founders of the Historic Dress project, said that the archives can be a tremendous teaching tool. “They’re a primary source for what women aspired to look like in a particular era. They’re a gauge – a reflection of women’s lives.” Professor Smith also notes that students have been involved in the project since its inception. “They are learning skills and systems that are in demand at museums, libraries, and archives,” Smith said.

Professor Smith is a graduate of Smith College. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s of fine arts degree in theatre design from the University of Texas.

Filed Under: Women's Studies


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