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Misconceptions About the Collection

The name of the Vassar College Costume Collection is misunderstood by many – the objects in our collection are not costumes made to be worn on the stage, but rather clothing made to be worn for real life. These artifacts are actual clothing items worn decades ago, sometimes over 100 years ago, by real women and men, not performers. For many years, when Vassar alumnae and other community members have cleaned out their closets and attics and found “old clothes” from their ancestors, they have often brought these objects to us in the Drama Department thinking that they could be worn as costumes. In fact, before this collection was set aside by Holly Hummel in the mid 1980’s, some of the objects were worn, and altered, as costumes for Drama department productions, or even for community fashion shows.

Now we know better; these items are far too fragile, and often too small, to be worn. Rather, we want them to survive as long as possible, as primary sources for student research. 

So, don't let the term "costume" fool you - those of us who study clothing from the past refer to it as "costume history," but we're talking about real clothing, not just what was worn on stage.