In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

Site Overview

This collection portal consists of introduction narratives, followed by chronological groupings, supported through themed image galleries highlighting special topics. The portal covers the collection’s holdings from the late eighteenth century through about 1980. It is tailored for a non-specialist audience. The overview provides a contextualized history of fashion interpreted and illustrated through items held in the MHS Collection. The narrative was honed and extensively refined by numerous revisions, and careful reconsideration as to which garments to select in order to give a representative picture of the MHS collection as it stands in 2020. The aim was to let the objects tell the history, to be concise, but avoid its becoming a list.

In the narrative section over 220 garments and details are referred to and discussed, some briefly, others at more length. Short comments, and in places longer passages, provide broad contextual background at appropriate points in the narrative.

Throughout the text, attention is drawn to items or clusters of items regarded as being of special significance and a strength in the collection. Gaps and weak areas (as of 2020) are pointed out, with remarks to the effect that they may yet be filled or improved. It is noted, that through the course of change, fashion styles overlap. Changes do not fit neatly into decades. With that understanding, and with references to overlap throughout the narrative, for the sake of convenience this guide is organized by decade, as is most often the case in fashion studies.

By design, this site is interpretive in nature and not a comprehensive digital display of all items within the MHS historic dress collection. However, all garments photographed through Institute of Museum and Library Services project may be searched through the MHS' online collections database.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) MA-30-18-0288-18.