Vintage women’s clothing collection is on display

Branden Peterson

In the 11 years Nancy Cyr has worked as museum collection manager at the Goldstein Museum of Design, she’s maintained a large women’s vintage accessory collection in storage, which often taunts her to show it.

Finally, she’s getting her chance. On Monday, the Goldstein Museum opened a women’s costume accessory exhibition displaying American pieces from 1800-1959.

“From Head to Toe: The Finishing Touch” displays pieces such as beaded purses, multicolored parasols, flamboyantly flowered hats and hatpins.

Of the four collections the museum houses, vintage clothing is the largest. Unlike previous shows, the exhibition will feature more than just mannequins in colorful costumes.

“I knew we had a wonderful collection of items,” Cyr said.

“So often when we do exhibits on clothing we put a mannequin with clothes on and we don’t put the accessory items with the mannequin.”

But in her first attempt as sole curator of an exhibition, Cyr has neatly organized women’s fashion artifacts – both the clothing and the accessories.

Although the materials were previously tagged and catalogued, the process of setting up such a diverse presentation took Cyr seven months.

With more than 1,100 hats, 600 shoes and an enormous collection of other accessories, Cyr and her colleagues carefully began dating artifacts from January to July. Choosing which items to display became a personal endeavor for Cyr during July and August.

She said she acquired much of the clothing and accessories through donations over many years. Many of the items were made in far-away places such as London and Paris.

Cyr said her student volunteers were surprised by the artifacts’ vivid colors. Because they had only seen black-and-white photography from the era, the students assumed people wore only dull clothing.

“Head to Toe” is the fourth exhibition at the Goldstein Museum of Design this year. It will run through Nov. 3.


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