University Library gallery hosts Sac State’s Costume Collection from previous decades
Inside the Sacramento State Library Gallery stood a variety of historical garments and accessories that Sacramento residents have worn through the decades.
Among them are different colored cloche hats, billowing sleeves known as leg-o-mutton bodices, an acid washed denim jacket, a two-tone dress from New York as well as shoes, jewelry and other vintage pieces.
Behind the displays are floor-to-ceiling archival photos of Sacramento, reflecting the time periods of the garments. These photos serve as a backdrop to place the clothes and viewer in the historical context.
“We always wanted to have a venue or space where we could display some of our pieces to share with the community,” Dong Shen the fashion merchandising and management program coordinator said. “However, certain issues kept us from being able to do so before now.”
Two dress ensembles from the 1910s displayed at the Library Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The mannequin for the left garment had to be further cut down to accommodate the size and shape of the time. (Irene Jacobs)
The Sac State fashion department opened its costume collection to the public on Aug. 23, showingcasing over a century of Sacramento fashion.
“Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion” hosts Sac State’s Costume Collection on display at the University Library Gallery, inviting students to step backward in time and explore Sacramento’s fashion history during the 1918 Influenza pandemic, Prohibition era, both World Wars and the Civil Rights Reform era as well as the modern day.
Shen said she has always wanted to do something with the fashion archive since she was hired 20 years ago.
The collection grew steadily over the years as donations from students, faculty and community members accumulated. However, the collection was almost exclusively kept for fashion students to study, making it unable to be displayed due to a lack of resources and expertise.
Taylor Anderson, a member of the fashion program, is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology who specializes in the history and sociology of fashion. Anderson joined the program in the fall of 2019.
“I call it a labor of love,” Anderson said. “There are definitely times when you think you’re investing lots of hours into details that aren’t going to manifest in the product—but if you love it, you can absolutely get through it.”
The collection is presented in a clockwise fashion, starting with a Civil War era mourning dress and touching into the turn of the century with an Edwardian gown and beaded flapper dress.
From there, the collection weaves through various designs and silhouettes of the 1900s before landing in the present with an array of fashion student designs.
The “Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion” exhibit seeks to showcase life in Sacramento through the lens of historical fashions at the Library Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The collection is displayed until Oct. 8., and is open from 10 am—4 pm Tuesday through Friday and noon—4 pm Saturday. (Irene Jacobs)
“We invite you to imagine Sacramento at different times throughout the…centuries and hope you recognize many of the locations in the photographs,” the sign at the entrance reads.
If the guestbook within the gallery is anything to go by, dozens of signatures from students and visitors alike detail their enthusiasm.
“Seeing peoples’ reactions, students who say it’s so great to see [the collection] here make it so worth it,” Anderson said. “And even some more elderly people will come through and say things like ‘I had something like this!’ or ‘my mother had a piece like this!’—It really appeals to people.”
Both Shen and Anderson credit their fashion students as some of the biggest contributors to the exhibit. Though both have put in countless hours of labor, they describe how students sewed handmade crinolines and petticoats to properly shape the clothes, making repairs and being flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Anderson calls the experience a “lesson in collaboration” and laughs at the memories of scrambling to make everything work.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen, really,” Anderson said.”So I just went to campus, packed everything into my Kia Soul and took it home to keep in my garage.”
Paige Thomason was one of the fashion students who helped bring the collection to fruition, working as an intern in the fashion department for two years. When looking back on everything, Thomason is proud that Sac State could be the one to house such a collection.
“A lot of students don’t even know there’s a fashion degree or department,” Thomason said. “Showcasing the collection to the community and other students is the most rewarding part for people to actually see we have this beautiful costume collection at Sac State.”
Some garments, such as this flapper dress from the 1920s, had to be displayed laying down due to the delicate nature of the clothing at the Sac State Library Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Dong Shen and Taylor Anderson both credit their fashion students as some of the biggest contributors to the exhibit. (Irene Jacobs)
Anderson believes the delay was good in the long run as it allowed them to truly fine tune the details of the collection. Shen echoes this, saying the year in which the collection is being presented is a special one.
“This year we’re celebrating the fashion department’s 75th anniversary at Sac State,” Shen said. “Through this collection we see the growth of the program, with pieces that are more than a hundred years old as a reflection of the program itself…so I think it was meant to be.”
The collection will be shown in the University Library Gallery until Oct. 8, and is open from 10 am—4 pm Tuesday—Friday and noon—4 pm Saturday.