Want to see 30,000 shoe sketches? How about 40,000 drawings from Berley Studios of couture from Paris fashion houses? Or a hand-painted book on manners from the early 1900s? How about 1,000 designer scrapbooks over the last century? Or maybe street style photos from the 1970s New York City? The Fashion Institute of Technology recently completed a 15-year renovation on its Special Collections and College Archives, part of the college’s Gladys Marcus Library, expanding its fashion and accessories archives from 3,500 square feet to 6,100 square feet, with room to add 20 percent more space…and assets.
It’s a treasure trove of historical information, visual delights and extraordinary sketches, photos and even actual accessories–a remarkable resource for anyone doing fashion/accessories research. FIT is also reaching out to designers to donate contribute their own archival materials over the decades to add to the treasure trove of materials, although all submissions must be approved.
The space is open seven days a week to designers, costume designers, researchers and even the public (all by appointment) and you might just bump into a designers planning their next line based on a vintage style, or costume designers researching an upcoming period movie or TV/streaming series. The Reading Room worked closely with Catherine Martin on “The Great Gatsby” and John Dunn on “Boardwalk Empire.”
Overall there are half a million works on paper, all unique, from design sketches to ads to books and periodicals. The oldest piece is an Italian costume plate for an etching dating back to 1590, but there are also 10,000 rare books dating back to 1680.
“We balance preservation and accessibility, environmental and security controls, all of which might typically be in opposition with each other,” says Karen Trivette, Associate Professor, Head of Special Collections and College Archives, at FIT’s Gladys Marcus Library.
There are also thousands of digital images, from scans of original sketches (it can be a bit scary handling such precious materials in person), to street style photographs and other period photos. A collection of photos by Jamel Shabazz can be found here.
Overall, everything is painstakingly cataloged on SPARC Digital and easily searchable here.
To see all of Jerry Miller’s digital archives, click here.
And lest people think there’s nothing to see from the late 20th century, the Reading Room also boasts a selection of 2,000 fashion show videotapes (but you’ll need a VHS system to play them until they are converted over to DVD!). There’s also more modern magazines, like this Harper’s Bazaar from 1965 featuring Jean Shrimpton.
Anyone can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 217-4385 to make an appointment or to reach out to Special Collections about a donation.