With the grant they hired Julie Melrose ’11 of Wooster, Ohio, to help and it became the perfect trio: Melrose knew the software; Hall knew how to categorize and organize things, and Turnbull knew and understood the historic periods and could date the clothes, and she also knew enough about historic clothing and designers to be able to determine which garments might be the most valuable–for study and dating.
The summer of 2010, the three set to work. Everyone had a lot of responsibilities. “I had to categorize the garments, make labels containing the date, description, and picture, write detailed descriptions, and get measurements,” Melrose said.
Going through the costumes was quite a reality check for Turnbull. “I thought we had maybe a hundred garments. We actually had over a thousand. The downstairs classroom in Ace Morgan was full of clothes,” she said. “It was difficult to determine what was worth saving and what wasn’t–since all historic garments are interesting and have some value.” But some were not in good shape, were duplicates, had mold, or holes, or so many tears that they didn’t even resemble a garment. They narrowed the collection down to less than 400.
The next summer, in 2011, the project continued. Melrose and Yue Nakayama ’12 photographed the clothes in more detail by putting them on mannequin to show the shape of the garment. “It is important to pad the garment,” Turnbull said, “so the accurate shape of the clothing is seen in the photos. The silhouette of the garments changes in the different historic periods—so seeing the true shapes of the garments is a very important part of documentation.”
The photos were taken from all sides, including the details of the fabric and trim. The result is online access to a close representation of the actual garment.
Turnbull has used the collection to aid her in teaching various courses, including History
of Fashion, 20th Century
and Costume Design. “The collection can be an important primary source for students designing or constructing costumes for the stage,” Turnbull said. “By looking at an actual garment from 1930, the fabric, trim, and cut can be understood so that costume for the stage can accurately represent the historic period. This is a research and study collection.”