Stitched in Time: The Smith College Historic Clothing Collection

Stitched in Time: The Smith College Historic Clothing Collection

Smith College is home to a number of
exceptional collections that provide students and scholars the opportunity to
study rare art and archival materials but one of the college’s most exciting
collections is one of its least known. (Music) -Perhaps one of the most hidden treasures
on campus is the collection of historic dress, which is a really extraordinary
document of material culture related to women’s lives. So this clothing
collection that’s been lovingly formed and nurtured in the theater department
is now coming to be understood as a really really important set of documents
that allow us a vantage point on women’s lives in the past and a vantage point
that I think is accessible from many
different disciplinary perspectives. [Background Discussion] In Professor Layne hall what’s class, the democratization of clothing in the
United States, students examine a Smith College relief unit uniform from World War One. -There’s just a great deal to be learned about examining the garments themselves and the accessories themselves it creates a kind of empathy
and sympathy with historical characters that’s really hard to attain in any other way. The historic clothing collection has its origins in the
theater department. When the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1968, Kiki Smith,
class of 1971, started organizing the mountain of clothes that
had accumulated after productions. -All of those clothes were just sort of jumbled
into one large stockroom. When I came back to teach here, I moved all of the
old clothes, the real clothes as I called them, into cabinets because first of all
they wouldn’t survive on stage and secondly, they, many of them were quite
beautiful pieces that somehow seemed to be different from the monks robes from
Romeo and Juliet. [Background Discussion] -Students have been crucial to the
collections evolution they’ve worked with Professor Smith to mend, catalog, and
house the pieces which include numerous donations from alumni. Among the
estimated 3,000 garments and accessories our pieces from the late 18th 19th and
20th centuries with an extensive array of clothing from the 1920s. But one of the most unique aspects of Smith College’s collection, is the inclusion of
items that reflect women’s everyday
lives over the years. -One of the real strengths I think of the collection, is its
investment in the quotidian in the daily. So a house dress that was worn by
someone all the time clearly to do domestic chores and to see patterns of
wear on it is profoundly moving and telling the use of material culture and
scholarship has been on the rise especially clothing and textiles.
This was evident when Smith colleges 2013 symposium ‘Narratives of Women’s Dress:
What Can a Garment Say?’, drew twice the number of attendees expected. -The symposium came about through a
con- liberal arts institute short term
project that took place in the fall of 2011 and we were surprised to find that
they were faculty in all three divisions who were interested in this subject
people from the mathematics department from the theater department from English
literature really folks who spanned the whole range of the Smith curriculum and
that made us realize that this was something that we could pursue in a
bigger way. -One of the things I learned during the
symposium was just how much
serious interest there is in something like this, I mean we had you know, 400
people sign up to attend and come through both of the days and it really
is incredible to have an interest in something almost your whole life and
then find out that there are so many other people who are very seriously
interested in the same thing that you
are and that they’ve made careers out of it. (Music) -They are a tangible resource for non-textual work meaning we have
libraries of books which are very valuable but we also have libraries of
archives of paintings and prints of course at the Museum, of diaries and
yearbooks and letters at the archives and these are kind of like letters and
journals into women’s lives in the past and my sense is that’s a very valuable
commodity to save and to have for the future. (Music)

3 thoughts on “Stitched in Time: The Smith College Historic Clothing Collection

  1. This is quite interesting. One caveat: a collection never "evolves." Indeed, it may only change via development that is created by people.

  2. Très belle vidéo toute fois vous oubliez de dire que la mode féminine actuelle est dans le creux de la vague, parlons pas de vague mais de tempête. Tatouages sur tout le corps, scarifications, suspension, piercings, anorexie, le must de la laideur, violence et sauvagerie offerte…
    Bon, j'ai vidé mon sac, il me reste k retourner dans le passé ou je me réfugie. Ma femme chérie (cancer) s''habillais en robes baroque (17 ième)
    Cheveux couleur naturelle bruns, ni décoloration, ni coupe sauvage, ni teinture arc en ciel, henné seul toléré. Chignon, fontange…..
    Je suis indésirable, merci de me ….. et rallumons les fours….
    Musique: Rameau, Couperin, Campra, M.A. Charpentier, Lully, et je nedit pas tous,
    Archis François Mansart, Jules Hardouin M;, R;deCotte, Gabriels etc…

  3. Sale cochon, je reviens à la charge, tout d'abord: dire à la présentatrice de la vidéo de remercier son coiffeur, les cheveux longs c'est si joli…
    C'est en 1968 qu'une catastrophe culturelle a frappé la mode féminine, on a vu exploser le ridicule des pantalons bleu (jeans). le pantalon taille basse et ce dans le monde entier, sur 10 pantalons fabriqué par des esclaves, on en gagne un onzième.
    Dire aux couturiers que la taille est placée environ cinq centimètres AU DESSUS DU NOMBRIL, pas sur les fesses
    Message aux patrons et industriels: payer les femmes moins cher pour rattraper le temps perdu qu'il faut pour remonter sans ces guenilles ….!!!!!
    Remarque: dans les années 50 jusqu'à 68 la mode féminine était sublime, Christian Dior le couturier de génie du siècle, (Mini crinoline et jupon qui dépasse un peu, j'aimais ça, ma belle en jouait fort bien.

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