Research Resource: Costume at the Oakland Museum

The Oakland Museum of California has recently updated their website and is now featuring (at the top of the page, no less) their historic costume collection. The costume collection online features about 450 objects online, and provides some details about the objects that appear. In browsing through the online collection, it seems heavy on shoes, hats and accessories – with few couture or designer garments (though James Gallanos is certainly present, as well as a few pieces from I. Magnin).

c. 1926-1927 *(see below for full catalog entry)

However, it does become clear that the focus is really on the history of California. Ethnic and Sportswear are included in this online selection, as well as artwear (including shoes by Gaza Bowen) and all types of uniforms (Military, nurse, employee, even campfire girl). A number of objects relate to the early days of the gay pride movement. Film costume is sparce, but it does include a pair of Eddie Murphy’s shoes from Beverly Hills Cop.

If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s certainly a place to start.

*Catalog Entry: 2008.78.3 c. 1926-1927 

This brown satin dress–with a scoop neck and short sleeves–is decorated with bands of the self same brown satin, as well as beading done in the form of flowers. The beads are sewn directly to the dress, mostly 6 petal flowers in various combinations of blue, green, amber color, pink and purple beads; they form an eight inch band around the skirt, above the wide hem. The dress has a dropped waist, and the top of the skirt is shirred with four bands of stitching. A band of the satin (about 1 1/8 inches wide) drops from the proper left shoulder, front and back, is loose to the dropped waist, where it is caught with a horizontal band of machine stitching, and then falls free again to the hem. At the proper left shoulder a lozenge-shaped piece of beaded brown satin (centered with a 4 petal pink flower) is stitched to hold the decorative bands.

Mary Acelia Chamberlain, who wore this dress, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1926. Although she taught in the San Francisco School System all her working life, she was also an accomplished musician, playing the violin. She performed at the Claremont Hotel. According to family history, she also entertained service men, playing the violin, while she was still in high school. She was bornn August 28, 1905 in Philadelphia, PA and moved to California at the death of her grandfather, before July of 1906. She died December 20, 2005 at the age of 100.

Used: Mary Acelia Chamberlain | University Of California, Berkeley | Claremont Hotel | Adult ~ female | Musician

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