The following museums are some of the world’s most important overall collections of historical and contemporary fashion.*
Spanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world. Key items in the collection include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture. Plus a growing number of pieces from 21st-century designers.
The Fashion Museum (formerly The Museum of Costume) is one of the world’s great museum collections of historic and fashionable dress. Designated as a collection of outstanding national significance, the Fashion Museum was recently listed by CNN as one of the world’s Top 10 fashion museums.
New York City, NY
The newly re-named Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comprises a collection of more than thirty-five thousand 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.
in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Today, the museum occupies 9,000 square meters and displays approximately 6,000 items at any time. It draws from its collections of works representing the history of costume from the French Regency period to the present (16,000 costumes and 35,000 fashion accessories), and textiles from the 7th century onwards (30,000 works), as well as examples of interior design, furniture, objets d’arts, wallpaper, tapestry, ceramic art, glassware, and toys from the Middle Ages to the present.
The collection’s focus is on clothing and costume design, covering key moments in fashion history and showcasing iconic french designers. The museum’s collection includes dress and accessories that run the gamut from basic streetwear to haute couture. The 18th Century department is home to one of the world’s largest collections of clothing from the Age of Enlightenment.
KCI’s collection currently ranges from the 17th century to the present day, with holdings of 12,000 items of clothing and 16,000 documents. The institute has received donations from some of today’s top designers and fashion houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and was presented with a gift of approximately 1,000 sets of clothing from Comme des Garçons.
New York City, NY
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.
An often overlooked museum that has a surprisingly large collection and beautiful exhibitions.
Los Angeles, CA
The museum is located on the ground floor of the Los Angeles campus of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and houses a collection of over 12,000 costumes, accessories and textiles from the 18th century through the present day, including film and theater costume. The FIDM Museum also houses the early Hollywood Costume Collection on loan from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and Recreation. It presents the annual Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition at the galleries.
The Kent State University Museum welcomes students and the general public to view, study and research from its collection of historic, contemporary, and world fashions. The collection goes beyond clothing and textiles to also include American glass, furniture, paintings and other decorative arts. The Museum also houses a library of books and historic periodicals dedicated to fashion and decorative arts.
*This list does not include collections focused on individual designers or types of accessories, even if they are very popular – you can search separately for this, or for more fashion museums by region or type of collection.
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