Library gallery exhibit shows how Sacramentans have dressed for 120 years — and fashion’s social impact

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An archival photo and contextual poster are on display as part of the
The exhibit, “Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion,” at the Sac State University Library Gallery through Oct. 8, includes archival photos of local people and places to put fashion into historical, social and cultural context. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Sacramento State is opening its vaults to showcase a vast collection of historic clothing and accessories that will make even the most stylish fashionista turn hornet green with envy.

“Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion,” featuring clothing from various fashion eras from the 1860s to the 1980s, is the public’s first look at Sacramento State’s collection of costumes on display through Oct. 8 in the University Library Gallery. Above.

The collection includes a Civil War mourning cloak, an intricate 1920s domed “flapper” dress, lace gloves, piebox hats, purses, shoes and jewelry, and more.

“It’s a hidden treasure,” said Professor Dong Shen, coordinator of the Fashion Merchandising and Management (FSH) program. “There’s a lot of history and a lot of history involved in those pieces.

“We have a responsibility to deliver to a larger audience.”

Housed in a windowless, environmentally controlled storage room in Mariposa Hall, the collection has grown as faculty, staff, community members and local businesses have donated more than 500 pieces over the past decade.

But they have never been cataloged or shown to the public.

“Our class gets it all the time,” said FASH lecturer Taylor Anderson. “Teachers go into the collection rooms and bring the pieces, but mainly for design reference or to show students certain techniques or constructions.

But we want to showcase the education not only to students in the fashion program, but to the greater Sacramento community and the rest of the Sac State community.

The moment Shane laid eyes on the set 20 years ago, she knew she wanted to put it on display.

“I was dying to do something,” said Shane, who teaches fashion and consumer-related courses in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. “But it wasn’t my area of ​​expertise.”

Shane said she was expecting someone like Anderson, whose background is in fashion history and sociology.

In spring 2018, they began to take out the collection, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit before the exhibition opened. “Dress Sacramento” was passed over and over until it finally opened in late August.

The exhibit includes fascinating pieces from the Roaring Twenties, World War II, the turbulent 1960s, and 1860 that take visitors through the 80s, before culminating in 2019 with costumes created by Sac State students.

“Wearing Sacramento” does more than focus on fashion trends.

Combined with archival photos of local people and places, the exhibit places fashion into historical, social, and cultural context, such as Prohibition-era, loose, drop-waisted clothing designed to sway to jazz music in dance halls like M Street. Cafe in Sacramento’s Old Japantown.

“Fashion is an easy thing to stumble upon because we take it for granted,” Anderson said. “But really, fashion is a medium and a platform to discuss issues of our culture, society, history, politics and human behavior.”

Sacramento Historian Veronica Candle Anderson helped select photos of Sacramento by providing suggestions and providing access to an online image database.

“I am very happy that we are starting to collaborate,” Kandle said. “We want to use our meetings and collaborate with schools.

“We’ve worked with Sac State interns before, but never from the fashion program. So it’s very exciting for me. I would love to see our collection being used more, and I think it would be really fun for people to see.

A nearly $3,000 grant from University Enterprises, Inc. paid for photo-expansion and acid-free archival materials to make non-destructive displays of damaged fabrics.

Many of the historical shapes don’t fit modern mannequins, so Anderson and her students had to build special clothing shapes with a 20-inch waist and the S-shaped figure popular in the Edwardian era.

One student even made a historically accurate cage crinoline and petticoat to go under a handmade mourning dress from the 1860s.

“Without these structures, the dress will not sit properly. It might work, but it’s not going to look like it’s going to be on the road,” Anderson said.

Story continues below photo.

Fashion Merchandising and Management (FASH) lecturer Taylor Anderson and FASH program coordinator Dong Shen set up a display of student-made cage crinolines and petticoats from the 1860s.
Fashion Merchandising and Management (FSH) lecturer Taylor Anderson, and Dong Shen, FSH program coordinator, work with a student-made cage crinoline and petticoat display to accurately depict a handmade mourning dress made in the 1860s. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

The exhibition is a way for the university to share all parts with the donor community. Shane and Anderson said they hope schools and senior centers will organize trips to the exhibition.

“When our students see the work, they see the value in the amazing facts behind it,” Shen said. “As seniors, if we brought different age groups, can you imagine who would be able to see the history of their lives? Or the impact on high school and junior high school kids?”

The FSH program is working to catalog the entire Sacramento State costume collection and make it publicly available online.

“Dressing Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion” runs through Oct. 8. The reception will be on Thursday, September 8th from 5-8pm, with opening remarks at 6pm.

The University Library Gallery is open 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Friday and noon – 4pm on Saturday.

For more information, call (916) 278-4189.

Five costumes from the 1860s to the 1980s appear as part of Sacramento State. "Costume Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion" Exhibit in the University Library Gallery.
A variety of costumes and costumes from the 1860s to the 1980s and beyond, as shown here, are on display in “Costume Sacramento: 120 Years of Fashion” at the University Library Gallery through Oct. 8. This is a public first. A look at the Sacramento State apparel collection. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita committed to Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent many years freelance writing as a mother. When she’s not accompanying her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, cooking, and Zumba.

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