Since New York City features more museums devoted to fashion and textiles than the rest of the country, it deserves its own page. It’s truly the best place to see and study clothing in the country!
The newly re-named Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comprises a collection of more than 35,000 costumes and accessories represents five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress, regional costumes, and accessories for men, women, and children, from the fifteenth century to the present
Housed at Manhattan’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology, The Museum at FIT is known for its innovative and award-winning special exhibitions. In July, it earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, the highest national recognition possible for a museum. Founded in the late 1960s, it is visited by 100,000 people each year. With a permanent collection of 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, the Museum at FIT places an emphasis on “aesthetically and historically significant ‘directional’ clothing, with an eye toward contemporary avant-garde fashion.
The collection possesses over 25,000 garments and accessories from the late 17th century through the present, the majority with a documented history linking them to the New Yorkers who wore them. The collection includes a large number of Worth gowns, theatrical costumes and accessories, and the work of New York designers like Claire McCardell, Mainbocher, Vera Maxwell, Norman Norell, and Valentina. A reference archive of materials related to fashion in New York city includes photographs, periodicals and catalogues. The collection captures the history not only of changing fashion tastes but also of the evolving culture and social mores of the city.
Museums with no permanent fashion displays, but who have frequent exhibitions on fashion:
The Brooklyn Museum’s Costume Collection, numbering over 23,500 objects, was transferred to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009 due to lack of resources to store and exhibit the collection. While they have no permanent fashion display, the museum still seems to be committed to showcasing both fashion and textiles, such as the shows Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe (opening in 2014), The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier (2013), “Workt by Hand”: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts (2013) and American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection (2010).
The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum has a textile collection of over 25,000 objects, and have had exhibitions related to both fashion & textiles so I feel obligated to mention them. However, their website is nearly impossible to use: no list of past or future exhibitions, terrible online search functions for their theoretically large textile collection, and with all their bright colors and jokey language they might as well be buzzfeed. I’m all for museums being fun, but this website makes me feel dumber every time I read it. Thumbs down, Cooper Hewitt!