By Mary-Katherine Whelan, Intern

Mary-Katherine has been interning at the Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol since May and is currently enrolled in the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College. A graduate from the Arts Management Program at the University of Toronto, she has previously worked for the National Historic Sites Alliance of Ontario, the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Niagara Historical Society, and Great North Artist Management. In part two of this two-part series, she details some of the many online museum collections of vintage fashion. 

Online Museum Collections

Over the last ten years cultural and historic institutions have gradually photographed and made their costume collections accessible online. There is a great wealth of resources available online that I regularly consult when I’m stumped.

mannequin wearing silk outfit

Evening ensemble designed by Nabob, about 1927: V&A Collection

Victoria and Albert Museum has a great collection available online. The collections made available span from 18th century to 20th century fashion, and include drawings, photographs, art work, and historical context and introduction for each collection.

brown beaded short sleeved dress

Evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent, 1967. The Museum at FIT.

The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) has, like the V&A, a comprehensive collection available online, which spans from the 18th century to the 21st century. What is unique about this collection is that it is very focused on costumes designed by noted fashion designers from the 20th century onward, and includes biographies of the designers. The collection has a searchable feature that is easy to use and can be narrowed down based on what you are specifically looking for.

The McCord Museum in Montreal has an online collection of costumes and textiles that are uniquely Canadian. Currently, the McCord Museum has over 900 images from their Costume and Textiles collection available online.  What is great about the McCord Collection is that visitors are able to download the images directly from the website and if interested can order high quality images from the collection.

Finger-woven sash: Northern Plains Métis, c.1900-1910, McCord Museum.

The online collection of The Kyoto Costume Institute is much smaller than others on this list (200 items) but they have a great interactive timeline that you can click through for in-depth information about items from the collection including context, designer name (if applicable), materials used and date.

back of dress pop art design sun

Dress Coat, designed by Roy Lichtenstein (Textile), Lee Rudd Simpson c. 1965. Kyoto Costume Institute.

Current Exhibitions

The Museum at FIT has pulled  together a comprehensive list of fashion and historical costume related exhibitions from institutions around the world.

For local costume history, visit the dress shop display in the History Hall at the Huron County Museum and check out Fashion Fridays posts by summer student Tess Burnfield on the museum Facebook page.

window display

Dress shop display in History Hall Gallery, Huron County Museum