North Texas Daily

Texas Fashion Collection at UNT delivers blast from past

Texas Fashion Collection at UNT delivers blast from past

June 15
12:27 2012

Nicole Balderas / Senior Staff Writer

Tucked inside of Scoular Hall, past the hallways of classrooms, is a journey through history by way of fashion.

In 1938, Edward and Stanley Marcus of the Neiman Marcus family began assembling work from top fashion designers as a tribute to their late aunt. The growing assemblage of works from various eras came to UNT in 1972, and the Texas Fashion Collection has since evolved into a world-renowned congregation of more than 18,000 pieces of clothing, shoes and other fashionable artifacts.

The 4,500-square-foot room housing the collection feels more like the backstage of a fashion show than a showroom. The climate-controlled room – the temperature ranges from 65 to 70 degrees, although Dawn Figueroa, assistant curator of the collection, said it usually feels more like 62 – ensures the preservation of items in the room, some of which date back to the 1800s.

A mannequin wears a green silk brocade halter dress with metallic paisleys in the Texas Fashion Collection. The dress was designed in the 1950s and is a gift from Frank and Carmella Graves to the TFC. The TFC is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preservation and documentation of historically significant fashion, according to the tfc.unt.edu website. Tours can be scheduled through the website as well. Photo by Amber Plumley

A tour of the collection showcases couture gowns on mannequins inched close to one another and a staggering assortment of collectors’ items, including an original Chanel black and white suit made in France by Coco Chanel herself in 1958.

“You don’t see items like this much anymore,” Figueroa said. “It’s rare to find an item made by the original designer.”

A library of clothing items are stacked two rows high to conserve the limited space, and some items can only be reached by ladder.

“The first two rows of the collection are arranged in retrospect by decade,” Figueroa said. “Viewers can see how fashion has changed through the decades.”

The visual history lesson illustrates changes in fashion throughout the ages, from embellished Victorian-era dresses to the modesty of the Great Depression to the vibrant colors of the 1960s.

In the next row, clothing is arranged alphabetically according to designer, featuring work from almost all of the major designers who were prominent in the 1900s.

Hidden among the racks is an entire collection of furs from the 1920s, ranging from cheetah fur to monkey fur. Artifacts include a pair of three-inch Chinese binding shoes and a South American mummy-bundle textile from 1100 A.D.

Going Digital

Planned renovations to the University Union call for the destruction of Scoular Hall in June of 13, sending the Texas Fashion Collection packing. The current plan would move denizens of Scoular Hall to 42,800 square feet of space on Welch Street. Figueroa said preparations for the move have already begun.

“The pieces will have to be covered with a cotton muslin, moved on racks and wheeled into a truck and be brought over to the new building a rack at a time,” she said.

Every single item down to the last handbag is being inventoried on the digital library website. Help is coming from sources such as library science graduate student Doug Dunford, who is tasked with researching many off the oddities of the collection, such as 1960s futuristic stewardess attire, maternity dolls and other donations.

So, far about 470 items out of 2,000 have been inventoried, said Collection Manager Edward Hoyenski. Layouts allocate about 5,000 square feet for the fashion collection in its temporary location on Welch Street.
Selections from the Texas Fashion Collection are regularly displayed at a fashion gallery space in Dallas, “Fashion on Main,” and Figueroa hopes to one day open a space on UNT campus.

The preservation of the collection is key, especially for students like fiber arts junior Marla Ross.

“It’s amazing how much history is in one object.”

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