by Nancy DeWitt
Our museum isn't just about cars. We also have a pretty impressive collection of vintage clothing, much of which just went on display a few weeks ago. During our early planning stages, several women recommended that we include some period clothing exhibits for visitors who "just aren't that into old cars." We thought it was a great suggestion and promptly set about searching for vintage clothing on eBay.
After several months, we decided to upgrade our collecting efforts toward obtaining museum-quality pieces. Barb Cerny suddenly found herself in the position of Vintage Fashion Curator and was soon corresponding with experts and making trips to shows. She has done a fantastic job at finding exquisite silk bustle dresses, Edwardian walking suits, top hats, stunning gowns from the Titanic era, heavily beaded flapper chemises, antique purses, tuxedos and Chantilly lace creations, among other things.
Our vintage fashion collection now spans over 180 years, with most pieces paralleling the eras represented by our cars. There are almost 50 outfits on display right now, in cases and on mannequins. Our goal is to rotate many of the displays every several months--in part to keep the exhibits interesting by focusing on different eras throughout the year, and also to help preserve some of the more delicate pieces.
We are still looking for some antique textiles from Alaska to display, including Native Alaskan clothing. Please let us know if you have something to share. We are also working on the write-ups for each outfit and hope to have the signs printed soon.
I have to say that Barb (and Tim) have done a great job assembling this collection. Many thanks go out to the ladies who planted this idea in our heads back in 2008. Ironically, it seems that all of our "not that into cars" visitors end up loving the automobile collection, but we're still glad we have so many beautiful clothing articles on display in the museum.