Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Glisson Collection

A little known clothing and textile collection exists at Virginia Tech (of all places!  Who knew??).  It's called the Oris Glisson Costume and Textiles Collection.  I ran across it in my capacity of 2nd Vice President of Programs for our local sewing guild.  An act of desperation on my part because sometimes it is really hard to find interesting programs.  Or any programs.  As it turned out, this didn't become a program but became a field trip instead since they don't take the collection any where. 

So that non-locals know, Virginia Tech is a large university in Blacksburg, Virginia.  I suppose besides its football program, it is most famous for the very dreadful shooting that occurred there a few years ago.  It is also very well known for its engineering school, which probably explains why this collection is relegated to obscurity.

Anyway, not knowing what to expect, we were all totally awed by what we saw when we walked in the classroom.  There was a wide array of clothing and accessories displayed in the front and they all had information cards with them.  I think that is what makes this collection unique--it's all about the story.  The collection began because of a class that Oris Glisson taught dealing with different time periods and what people wore.  So her students would go home on Thanksgiving break or spring break and talk about what they were learning.  Well, someone at home would remember that Great Aunt Nellie wore an outfit just like that when she got married and next thing you know, they'd rummage in the attic and bring back to Tech that garment along with its story of who wore it, when and why.  Sometimes they even brought pictures of the garment on their great grandmother or whoever.  How neat is that?

And, since it's not like anyone needs to keep clothing from 50 or 100 years ago in the attic, the garments would be left at Virginia Tech to be used as samples of clothing from the various time periods.  The collection just kept growing and growing until its present size of around 5,000 items.  You can read more about it here.  The collection itself is in storage but some garments are on display on the lower level of Wallace Hall.

Here are some pictures I took of some of the things we got to see on our field trip:

An overview of part of the collection we saw.  Obviously, we only saw a very small fraction of it!

Lots of pintucks!  Neat details.

Dress made of netting.

Back view of dress--it's easier to see the netting and that it's underlined in beige.

Okay, there were prettier dresses in the collection, but I liked this one.

Suit--it's hard to see the skirt.

The dress that can stand on its own!  How funny is that?  This is when interfacing became a big thing and this dress has some heavy duty interfacing in it!

It's hard to see but the back of this dress has a zipper underneath and then another layer with a slit opening and I think a button closure at the top.  Neat design feature because you would expect to see skin because of the way the outer layer was done, but instead you get to see more of the dress fabric!

Man's bathrobe.

I cannot remember the name for this exactly but it was worn when the bustle was big and the bust needed to protrude too, hence the gathers in front to make that happen.

Man's beaver top hat.

Lots of men's top hats...and you can see their information cards. 
 Our presenter was rather pleased at having ladies who sew see the collection because we would all exclaim about pintucks, hems, fabrics and other construction details. 

Now, the sad part.  The collection has gotten so big and some of it is deteriorating so Tech will have to decide (eventually) what to do with it--a museum of its own, donating it to a museum....Who knows?  But, I think that they should have at least one Threads magazine article about it, don't you?  Or something similar--with all the stories surrounding the collection, it might make an interesting book. 

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Ohmigoodness I could spend forever there! I'm such a history nerd (you should have seen me in Charleston on our carriage tour-I think I embarrassed the DH) and LOVE period clothing. Not so much wearing it, but love looking at what was "the norm" then and attempting to wrap my brain around what that would make MY day look like now :)

Great post!