”An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin, 1706–1790
“FIDM Museum exhibitions are our gift to students and the community. Additionally, we want to acknowledge the generosity of all of our donors and supporters—past, present, and future—for their assistance in helping us to provide students, researchers, designers, and the public with resources to examine the role of historic fashion”
Barbara Bundy, Museum Director
The FIDM Museum and Library, Inc. collects, preserves, and interprets fashion objects and support materials with outstanding design merit. It fosters student learning, public engagement, and recognition of the creative arts and entertainment industries by providing access to the collections through exhibitions, publications, and other research opportunities.
Rudi Gernreich Archive
As the years passed, the FIDM Museum grew in proportion to the size of the college. In 1985, the Rudi Gernreich Archive was magnanimously bequeathed to the museum by the designer’s estate. Five years later, a new Los Angeles campus was built, including designated storage space for the museum’s 5,000-piece collection.
1993: The FIDM Gallery
Community outreach—always important to the museum—attracted new donors, as did various displays of the collection’s pieces on FIDM campuses. The FIDM Gallery opened in 1993, providing a permanent space for presenting the growing collection. The museum mounted exhibitions ranging from California sportswear to Hollywood costumes—exhibitions that were always free to the public in appreciation of the community’s longstanding, generous support.
1997: 10,000 Objects
By 1997, the collection numbered over 10,000 objects. A curatorial department was established to oversee the museum’s care and direction; the FIDM Gallery was expanded to 8,000 square feet with a dedicated gallery staff; and the Museum Shop was opened to support the museum, selling alumni work and merchandise complimenting the exhibition themes.
1998: Permanent Collection and the Hands-On Study Collection
In 1998, the collection was divided into the research-oriented Permanent Collection and the hands-on Study Collection. The museum then began to convert its hardcopy object records into a multifunctional digital database, constructed three state-of-the-art compact storage areas, and acquired the Annette Green Fragrance Archive, expanding the scope of its collections to mirror the multiple disciplines taught at FIDM.
The size, caliber, and awareness of the collections have increased, and the museum has branched out into documentary productions, catalogue publications, and social media activities.
The museum focuses on the strong design merits of high fashion, most of the collections are dedicated to fashionable women’s dress, and acquisitions are determined primarily by how well an object represents its time period, exceptionally unique design, and a designer’s oeuvre.
The past decade of collecting—2000 through 2010—has transformed the FIDM Museum. Not only have extraordinary, often rare objects been entrusted to the museum’s care but individuals and corporations have offered funding to purchase select pieces.
Nonetheless, unknown dressmakers share archival storage space with famous designers. Rounding out the collections are folk dress and non-Western garments valued as sources of comparison with European and American fashion. Accessories are also a vital component, exhibited individually or as part of a head-to-toe look.
Photographs and fashion plates depicting real and ideal versions of dress are sought as valuable exhibition pieces in their own right, but also to help the curators style historic ensembles on mannequins. In museum displays, all of these materials work together to illuminate the cyclical nature of design history.
20th - 21st Century Collection
American designers Gilbert Adrian, Claire McCardell, and Norman Norell are now more fully represented, along with international designers Issey Miyake, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen. The Gianni Versace Menswear Archive is a standout acquisition, as is the Michel Arnaud Photography Archive housed in Special Collections.
The Collection Today
The collections now include exemplary nineteenth-century Parisian haute couture gowns by Merlot-Larchevêque, Charles Frederick Worth, and Félix Poussineau. Twentieth-century garments by luminaries such as Madeleine Vionnet, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Yves Saint Laurent have been acquired.
The Ephemera Collection
Ephemera such as periodicals, patterns, and photographs support the study of design by illuminating historical contexts. Additionally, interior textiles, swatch books, and embroidery samples complement the fashion holdings and provide a rich understanding of related disciplines.
Plans for the future include a conservation laboratory in Los Angeles and expanded gallery space on the FIDM Orange County campus. Eventually, a graduate program for the curatorial study of fashion history will bring full circle the original mission decreed at the founding of the FIDM Museum: to provide students, researchers, designers, and the public with resources to examine the role of historic fashion, accessories, textiles, jewelry, fragrance, and related ephemera in their relationship to society, history, art, and technology.
© FIDM Museum & Library, Inc.
Kevin L. Jones and Christina M Johnson. FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000-2010. Los Angeles: FIDM Museum Publications, 2010.
Photography by Brian Sanderson.
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