Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Links We Love

Research, blogs, and libraries--oh my!  Although we mainly rely on our costume history library for reference material, sometimes it is help to turn to the world wide web to see what other sites have to offer.  There are a surprising number of university library collections of vintage fashion plates which can be very helpful in dating garments and identifying trends in fashion, accessories, trim techniques.  

Below is a list of some favorite research websites on the history of clothing.  Descriptions are pulled directly from the website home page if possible.    

Do you have a favorite?  Include a link in the comments below!
  • The Costumer's Manifesto:    The site is well laid out and easy to navigate.  The clothing and history sections are broken down into eras and/or decades.  

  • Los Angeles County Library Casey Plates Index:   "The Joseph E. Casey Fashion Plate Collection contains over 6,200 handcolored fashion plates from British and American magazines dating from the 1790s to the 1880s. All of the plates are indexed and digitized for online viewing. 
  • The University of Washington Fashion Plate Collection.  A great collection of fashion plates from the collections of Professor Blanche Payne and others.    The archive is searchable by key words and era, and the opening page offers helpful tips to make your search even more worthwhile.  
  • Selections from the Little Bower Collection of Fashion Plates at CSU-Fresno.  "This exhibit will highlight five eras of fashion plates from the Little Bower Fashion Plate Collection. These time periods are: Directoire/Empire (1790-1820); Romantic (1820-1850); Crinoline (1850-1869); Bustle and Nineties (1870-1900); and Edwardian and World War I (1900-1920)."

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Frankly, my dear, someone out there gives a damn."

We came across this article written about the preservation work being done at the University of Texas.  The goal is to repair five dresses from the film "Gone with the Wind" by 2014.

An exerpt from the article:
"It's been 75 years since the publication of "Gone With the Wind," and it still captures the public's imagination. The novel and subsequent movie keep generating controversy for their portrayal of slavery and keep generating headlines, thanks to fans who want to read and re-read the book, collect the paraphernalia and dress up like Scarlett O'Hara."

Fascinating article, fantastic work.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick Tips for Dating Garments

We found this wonderful quick guide to dating garments on The Vintage Fashion Guild (  Below is an excerpt of this fabulous list written by Hollis Jenkins-Evans.   Please visit them for more information or the compete list.

Quick Tips for Dating Vintage
Here are just a few quick easy-to-remember tips. These facts don’t necessarily place a garment in a year, but they will help narrow it down.
·      The first practical sewing machine was invented in 1845. Not in general use immediately. If is has machine sewing, it’s post 1845.
·      Machine chain stitch came first, followed by lockstitch. Lockstitch seams are rarely found prior to 1870.
·      Hand-sewn construction (rather than hand finishing) and machine-sewn construction coexisted for years – until the 1880s, if not later.
·      The zigzag machine was invented in 1947.
·      The serger has been in use since the 1920s for seam finishing. This is the overlock or serger thread finish we still use today on cut fabric edegs inside the garment.
·      Hanging loops at the neck of jackets, blouses and so on, are usually of European manufacture.
·      Hemming tapes generally denote North American manufacture. German manufacturers never used them.
·      Circle stitching inside the cups of a bra is a good indicator that it’s from the 1950s.
·      Watch pockets can be found on the waistline or waistband of dresses 1840s-1880s and elsewhere on the dress bodice from the 1880s.
·      Cartridge pleating of the skirt at its waist is seen 1840s-1860s, fading out by the 1870s.
·      Tiny piped armhole seams date a garment to the 1870s or before and were rare after that.
·      Armholes were cut high and fitted in the 1950s and the 1970s.
·      Three-quarter and seven-eighth sleeves were popular late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
·      Diamond gussets in the armhole indicate 1950s.
·      In 1942, men’s double-breasted suits in the USA lost their vest and became 2-piece due to the war effort.

·      18th century silk brocade with white grounds usually denotes English manufacture whereas silk brocade with yellow grounds usually means its French.
·      Rayon (known as artificial silk) was a French process developed during the 19th century. AKA Viscose (English process). The name Rayon was coined in 1924 and was used extensively for lingerie and light summer dresses until the 1950s when nylon became popular.
·      Dacron¨, trademarked by DuPont and denotes numerous types of polyester yarn. Used in manufacture from 1953.
·      Nylon was the first true synthetic developed by DuPont in the 1938, available to the American public in May 1940, used in stockings. Not used in clothing until well after WWII.
·      Qiana¨, a filament nylon used for woven and knitted fabrics was registered by DuPont in the 1970s.
·      Spandex – first commercial use in 1959, seen in lingerie in the early 1960s, but not in clothing much until the 1980s. (Registered to DuPont as Lycra¨)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What steps have been taken so far?

In the spring semester of 2009, Professor Elizabeth Payne made the first significant strides to get our collection archived in a joint effort with Monica Fusich and the Henry Madden Library.  Drama 181T:  Costume History incorporated the archiving process, the studied techniques and materials used to construct the garments, and looked for relevant primary research to accurately date the garment.  This joint effort also was part of the ESILI (Enhancing Student Information Literacy Initiative) program at Fresno State.  
Visit the eCollections section of the Henry Madden Library ( ) and click on the "Theatre Arts Vintage Colleciton" to view the beautiful photographs and research done by the students.  
Photo courtesy of the Henry Madden Library

Additionally, you can view our previous blog and archive activities at our old blog (  Over the course of last year, students continued measuring, archiving, and blogging about the garments in our collection.  

We are thrilled that our work can continue this year thanks to the winners of the Fresno State Undergraduate Research Grant.   Congratulations to Kelsey Oliver, Lauren Mead, and Kayla Clark, and we look forward to seeing their research and archival work over the semester right here! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

What is this collection and why are we taking this project on?

Over the years, the costume department at California State University, Fresno has accrued a collection of approximately 3500 historical garments and 1000 accessories that have been donated from private collections.  Until recently, the collection was essentially forgotten in its storage space in the basement.  

Recently, the costume department has taken a renewed interest in cataloguing these garments and utilizing them as the unique, three-dimensional, tangible snapshot of daily life and a connection to the past that we can see with our own eyes.

This blog is intended to serve as a more informal, first step in cataloguing these garments to expedite the official cataloguing through our collaboration with the Henry Madden Library on the campus of CSU-Fresno.
As custodians of this amazing collection, we have been entrusted with keeping pieces of history alive to inform future generations.  We hope you enjoy reading about our experience, looking at the pieces, and falling in love with the past as we do with every new discovery!


Wait--isn't there already a blog about the vintage garment collection at Fresno State?

Yes.  Unfortunately, due to spammers and a difficulty manipulating images with the old blog, we have now moved to a more user friendly platform.  This means more posts with more PICTURES!  Join us for this journey!

Left--Blouse front with needlepoint lace