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For Sale: 10,000+ Historic Clothing & Textiles

When the email announcing this sale arrived in my inbox late last week, I wished, just for a moment, that I had better access to the East Coast and it’s glorious auction houses. What is it about Massachusetts? It seems that more historic clothing is stored in warehouses there, than in just about anywhere. “More than 10,000 fashion and textile objects will be sold in this whirlwind, two-day sale” in Sturbridge, Massachusetts on May 10 and May 11. Preview the catalog here: August Auctions.

These objects are newly deaccessioned from major institutions such as The Brooklyn Museum (NY), Smith College Costume Collection (MA), The Chrysler Museum of Art (VA), The Goodwill Historic Costume Collection (OH), The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (CA) and others. It of course brings up questions of donor intention, as well as the quality, condition and importance of the objects themselves (See my post on Worn Through on Issues in Dress Collecting: Deaccessioning).

That said, the sale will apparently include a large selection of coveted designer names, and historical clothing from the likes of Worth, Doucet, Paquin, Chanel, Norell, Cashin, Givency, and Dior as well as:

1000 Victorian & Edwardian garments, American & European designer clothing, lingerie & whites, corsets, military uniforms, lots of gents clothes including the 18th C embroidered clothes pictured, paisley & export shawls, collarless shirts, boxes of collars & cuffs and other accessories, costume jewelry, French swatch books, Asian garments/textiles, 17th-20th C. lace & silk brocades & embroideries, ladies’ 18th C through 1980 garments, including many designer & couture, ladies’ sporting clothing, [and] huge accessory lots.

If anyone is willing to report back from the sale – I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

*Images via Augusta Auctions


  1. Chris Woodyard wrote:

    I cannot speak for the items deaccessed from museum collections, but I am familiar with the “Goodwill Historical Collection”–they used to put on Ladies Who Lunch fashion shows using original garments. They had no conception of proper care of the garments and would do things like put a 1950s wedding dress hoop under a Civil War gown. The shows featured whimsical commentary about the strange and awful things our ancestresses had to wear. The clothing is almost certainly better off in other hands.

    Monday, May 9, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  2. Heather wrote:

    Thanks for the Comment Chris! (The first on this brand-new blog). Thanks so much for the background on the Goodwill Historical Collection. I think this is not an uncommon scenario for vintage clothing collections historically. I believe live model fashion shows were even, at one time, sanctioned by the Costume Institute. Thankfully, as we learn more – most methods change and adapt.

    Monday, May 9, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  3. Scrapiana wrote:

    What an extraordinary sale! I’m sure we all wish we could be a fly on the wall there.

    Monday, May 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  4. Kendra wrote:

    Gah, these sales always make me shudder a bit! Of course, if something isn’t museum-worthy then I’m all for doing whatever with it… but I worry about the fate of these items! That being said, it’s always fun to get to see them.

    Monday, May 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

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