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About the Collection

Photograph of Wedding Outfits from 1889 and of Jessie Tucker, Muriel Lampell, and Beulah May Christ Hummel

The Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC) is a collection of over 500 examples of original historic clothing, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The collection is maintained within the Drama Department, with the help of numerous Vassar students, faculty, staff, and alumnae. Although most items have been donated over the years, by alumnae and their families, to be used as costumes in theatrical productions, these objects have been kept separate from the theatrical costume stock in order to conserve them for research purposes.

The mission of the collection is twofold: to provide physical artifacts to support the study of the history of fashion, and to preserve the history of the college itself. Each object in the collection can serve as an example to teach about fashion’s norms or innovations, yet each also comes to us from Vassar’s community and represents Vassar’s own past, telling us in turn about the history of women’s education and the history of the Hudson Valley.

The study of these actual historical objects as primary sources is not only informative to students of theatrical costume design and fashion history, but informs almost all other academic disciplines. Although often taken for granted, the wearing of clothing is an important aspect of daily life that provides many opportunities for comparative study. The collection has been a resource not only to the Drama Department, but also to the departments of Art History, History, Victorian Studies, American Culture, French, English, and Women’s Studies, and we have even collaborated with the Chemistry department.

The collection is supported by a gift in memory of Ronni Carol Kleinman '68, facilities donated by Katharine Freston '52  and gifts, in honor of the collection's founder, to the Holly Hummel Fund for the Historic Costume Collection.