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Clothing Collection Educates Students
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Shoes, purses, suits, dresses, hats, household linens and other historical memorabilia help students at Mississippi State University step back in time to study apparel design, textiles and merchandising.
The Historic Costume and Textile Collection in the MSU School of Human Sciences is the resource behind these history lessons. The collection, made up of over 1,000 items, ranges from the 1800s to the 1970s and links students to the study of Mississippi fashion.
"The collection is a hands-on lab for students learning," said Wanda Cheek, historic costume faculty member. "Garments are used in various courses for design inspiration and to illustrate fine construction techniques no longer used because of time and money restrictions."
The collection lets the students look at which fibers are more durable and which materials break down more easily over time. Students learn about textile conservation, cleaning, storage and restoration which will enable them to serve as a resource in their community.
Each student is assigned an item to research, document and date, and they often learn stories about the original owner from descendants. During the spring, students researched donations from the family of William Hall Smith, the fifth president of Mississippi State University.
"Students also learn to display historic costumes correctly, which helps those who want to work in a museum, department store or organization that exhibits clothing for public interest," said Dr. Phyllis Miller, a School of Human Science assistant professor.
The collection creates an environment for learning what it was like to live during different time periods.
"Students begin to associate certain fashions with a time period," Cheek said. "Clothes reflect the spirit of the time and help students understand different lifestyles."
Despite the size of the MSU collection, Dr. Catherine Boyd, professor in the School of Human Sciences, said no collection is ever complete.
"We are interested in building the collection with fine examples of couture and designer pieces worn by Mississippians," Boyd said. "We also want to continue collecting significant pieces from the 1800s through the middle of this century."
Although the collection is not open daily, viewing arrangements can be made for special groups. Currently, items from the collection that represent the Titanic era are on display in Mitchell Memorial Library on MSU's campus.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the collection should contact faculty in the School of Human Sciences.