Complete Fashion History at your fingertips

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just unveiled its new online costume database – and low and behold it includes EVERYTHING in the Costume Institutes collection. As reported in Women’s Wear Daily:

The project was started in 2000, and since then the department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has worked on formatting and digitizing information on 29,432 objects from the 31,000-piece collection. It is available to view through the museum’s Web site under Collection Database at The move is part of the museum’s initiative to showcase its entire holdings online.

View the Database here

Combined with the Victoria & Albert Image archive, this presents a huge shift in accessibility of museums collections. It also suggests that museums, in an effort to cut down on staff and to increase storage, are beginning to move away from hands-on research of collections (many museums are beginning to store their objects in off-site locations that are not accessible to researchers). This troubles me, as I am primarily an object-based researcher and historian, rathern than a theororist. Construction techniques and materials are hard to glean from images and descriptions. Being in the same space as an object can inform your knowledge not only of the way it is constructed, but also its smell, sound and over-all presentation.

In anycase, I would encourage educators and students alike to try out the new Met database and comment on their usefulness below. A point to note on the Met’s online collection, is that descriptive text reads,  ‘This information may change as the result of ongoing research.’ So be sure to do outside research in addition to information obtained directly from the site. It’s also helpful to know that by viewing ‘The highlights‘ from The Costume Institute, one can get a complete overview of fashion history (it is organized in chronological order by creation date). Again, comments welcome below. Here are a few gems I found:

This is one of the more recent donation to the collection:

“Gleaner”, Bag, 2007
Michele Oka Doner (American, b. 1945), Designer; Nancy Gonzalez (Colombian, b. 1953), Designer
crocodile skin, silver; Width: 21 in. (53.3 cm)
Gift of Nancy Gonzalez, 2007 (2007.377.2)

Dress, 1891
Liberty of London (British, founded 1875), Design House
silk; [no dimensions available]
Gift of Mrs. James G. Flockhart, 1968 (C.I.68.53.9)

Dress (Ball Gown), ca. 1887
House of Worth (French (1858–1956)), Design House; Charles Frederick Worth (French, born England, 1826–1895), Designer
silk, glass, metallic thread; a) L. at center front: 12 in. (30.5 cm). b) L. at center back: 60 in. (152.4 cm).
Gift of Orme Wilson and R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of their mother, Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949 (49.3.28a, b)

Dress (Robe à la Française), 1750–1775
silk; (a) Length at CB: 69 in. (175.3 cm) (b) Length: 42 in. (106.7 cm)
Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1954 (C.I.54.70a, b)

Dress, ca. 1840
cotton; Length at CB: 51 1/4 in. (130.2 cm)
Gift of Richard Martin and Harold Koda, in honor of Cora Ginsburg, 1993 (1993.32)

Until next time,


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