The University Library Gallery hosts a collection of Sac State costumes from decades past.
The Sacramento State Library Gallery features a variety of historical clothing and accessories worn by Sacramento residents over the decades.
Among them are colorful cloche hats, billowing sleeves known as leg-o-mutton bodices, an acid-washed denim jacket, a two-tone dress from New York, as well as shoes, jewelry and other powder pieces.
Behind the displays are floor-to-ceiling archival photos of Sacramento, reflecting the era of the clothing. These photos serve as background to place the costumes and the audience in historical context.
“We always want to have a place or space where we can share some of our pieces with the community,” said Dong Shen, fashion merchandising and management program coordinator. However, some issues prevented us from doing so before now.
Sac State’s Fashion Department opened its costume collection to the public on August 23, showcasing a century of Sacramento fashion.
“Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion” invites students to step back in time and explore Sacramento’s fashion history through the 1918 influenza epidemic, the Prohibition era, both World Wars and Civil Rights, and showcases Sac State’s costume collection in the University Library Gallery. Both the Reformation era and the modern era.
Shane says she has always wanted to do something with the fashion archive since she was hired 20 years ago.
The collection is constantly growing as donations from students, faculty and community members accumulate. But the collection was kept only for fashion students to study, which could not be seen due to lack of resources and knowledge.
Taylor Anderson, a member of the fashion program, is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology specializing in fashion history and sociology. Anderson joined the program in late 2019.
“I call it the labor of love,” Anderson said. “Of course there are times when you think you’re going to spend hours trying to find the details that aren’t visible in the product – but if you like it, you’ll definitely get it.”
The collection is presented clockwise, from Civil War-era mourning dresses to turn-of-the-century touches with Edwardian gowns and slinky flapper dresses.
From there, the collection weaves together designs from the 1900s using various patterns and images from contemporary fashion students.
A sign at the entrance reads: “We invite you to imagine Sacramento in different moments.
If the guestbook in the gallery is anything to go by, dozens of signatures from students and visitors detail their enthusiasm.
“Students who say it’s great to see people’s reactions [the collection] Make it very valuable here,” Anderson said. “Also, some old people came and said, ‘I had something like that!’ or ‘My mom had a piece like that!’—that really gets people.
Both Shane and Anderson have contributed their fashion students to the exhibition. Although both put in countless hours of labor, students describe how to sew handmade crinolines and petticoats to create the perfect fit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Anderson calls the experience “a lesson in teamwork” and laughs at the memories of the struggle to make it all work.
“We really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Anderson said. “So I just went to campus, packed everything into the Kia Soul and took it home to put it in the garage.
Paige Thomason was one of the fashion students who helped bring the collection to fruition, working as an intern in the fashion department for two years. Looking back on it all, Thomason is proud that Sac State could be home to such a collection.
“A lot of students don’t even know there’s a fashion degree or department,” Thomason said. “Showing the collection to the community and other students is a very rewarding part for people to see that we really have this beautiful collection of clothing at Sac State.”
Anderson believes the delay was good in the long run as it allowed them to fine-tune the details of the set. Shane echoes this, saying the year the collection is presented is special.
“This year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the fashion department at Sac State,” said Shane. “With this collection, we see the growth of the program, they’re a reflection of the program that’s over a century old…so I think it was meant to be.”
The collection is on display in the University Library Gallery until October 8 and is open 10am-4pm Tuesday-Friday and noon-4pm Saturday.