The Texas Fashion Collection: UNT’s Hidden Gem

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A selection of garments in the research room at the Texas Fashion Collection (left to right): Optical stripe jacket by John Paul Gaulitier/Femme; minidress designed and donated by Todd Oldham; evening dress by Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo originally owned by Lena Horne; evening dress by Hanae Mori; suit by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel

Did you know that fashion enthusiasts, historians, marketers and artists alike can come to Denton and visit the Texas Fashion Collection to admire pieces from 18th-century colonial to the modern era? Annette Becker, assistant director of the TFC, gave us a sneak peek at what’s inside the expansive 20,000 piece collection.

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Gown from the mid-nineteenth century on view in collection storage

Founders of the Neiman Marcus department store, Stanley and Edward Marcus, started the collection in Dallas in 1938. The foundation of the collection was based on the Neiman Marcus Award for “Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion” and honored the biggest names in fashion from designers to writers.

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Photograph of Coco Chanel, flanked by Mary and Stanly Marcus, during her 1957 visit to Dallas to receive the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion; shown with the Western style “cowboy” suit Stanly Marcus wore for the occasion

In the 1960s, Neiman Marcus and the Dallas Museum of Fashion teamed up to find a home for their collections of historic and designer clothing. They shopped around the country for a place to house the collection and decided on the University of North Texas.

The collection has been housed at UNT since 1972 and is currently part of the College of Visual Arts and Design. Fashion pieces included are from Neiman Marcus, Dior, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio Armani and Hubert de Givenchy— including a dress that Givenchy designed for Audrey Hepburn!

The collection has men and women’s wear, hats, shoes, a small collection of jewelry and much more.

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Cabinets in collection storage that house accessories like a 2007 Dolce & Gabanna corset belt, a paper dress in a      can from the 1960s, Balenciaga shoes and a headpiece worn by Thai temple dancers

How did all of the 20,000+ pieces get into the collection? Donations! Nearly every object at the TFC was donated by fashion designers, institutions, companies or individuals. The community of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been a huge part of the collection’s growth.

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Hanging storage for garments from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

“My goal with my time [with the TFC] is to make sure as many people are able to work with these pieces as possible,” Becker said. “And have as much creative and academic work produced as possible.”

During your visit at the TFC, you can learn how certain structures are made in garments, how something was worn, the historic background of any piece and more. Many objects in the collection are stored horizontally in boxes so they are more stable.

 

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Haute couture suit by John Galliano for Givenchy, donated in 2014 by Jerry Ann Costa

UNT fashion students have the privilege of examining certain pieces of the collection closely during their lectures for an enhanced learning experience.

The TFC holds a few exhibitions, the most recent being “Art Meets Fashion: 1965-2015” at NorthPark Center in Dallas in 2015. The collection does not have its own dedicated exhibition space. Becker identifies area cultural institutions to host spaces for upcoming shows.

“It is important we do a lot of public outreach and try to keep doing exhibitions,” Becker said.

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        Cover of “Balenciaga and His Legacy”

Outgoing director of the TFC Myra Walker wrote a book called “Balenciaga and His Legacy,” which highlights the collection since they house hundreds of Balenciaga pieces. Outgoing director of the TFC Myra Walker wrote a book called “Balenciaga and His Legacy,” which highlights the collection since they house hundreds of Balenciaga pieces. The publication accompanied a 2007 exhibition at the Meadows Museum at SMU and featured important examples of haute couture and high design in the TFC’s holdings.

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Interested in seeing the collection? Contact the TFC by sending an email to tfc@unt.edu or calling (940) 565-2732. For research, you can email assistant director Annette Becker at annette.becker@unt.edu

For more information on visiting the collection or about the TFC, in general, go to http://tfc.unt.edu/home.

Images courtesy of Sydney Cooper.

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