Historic Costume Collection
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Preserving History

The Historic Costume Collection of over 9000 donated items serves as an educational, scholarly, and artistic resource for students and the Milwaukee community.

Ranging from the 18th century to present day, the Collection exhibits an array of women's couture and ready-to-wear garments from notable women with Wisconsin ties to famous designers such as Chanel, Patou, Adrian, Irene, Charles James, Madame Gres, and Karl Lagerfeld. 

Contributing to the Collection

Items presented for donation to the Historic Costume Collection are reviewed on a monthly basis during the academic year by a committee of faculty and staff members. The criteria for accepting donations include the following:

  • Condition: Items must be in good condition and complete, including all original elements such as slips, belts, and all pieces of an ensemble. The Mount Mary University Historic Costume Collection does not accept objects with obvious insect damage such as moth holes or objects made from animal fur due to storage constraints.
  • Provenance: Known history of ownership or construction for the item is available.
  • Historical significance: The item, donor, or original owner has connections to Mount Mary University or the state of Wisconsin.
  • Photographs:  Availability of photographs of the garment being worn by the original owner.
  • Originality:  The item is not a duplicate of something already in the Collection.

For each item to be considered, please send the following documentation:

  • Photographs of the item(s)
    *Please include both full length and detailed images.*
  • A written description of materials, color, and condition
  • A written account of the known history and historical significance

Submit the above as an attachment via email to mmu-costumecollection@mtmary.edu or to:

Historic Costume Collection
c/o Fashion Department
Mount Mary University
2900 N. Menomonee River Parkway
Milwaukee, WI 53222-4597

After the committee has reviewed the photographs and documentation, potential donors will be contacted to make arrangements for an in-person evaluation at Mount Mary University to determine final acceptance of a given item. Please allow several months to complete the entire evaluation process.

To support the Historic Costume Collection with in-kind or financial contributions, please contact the Collection curators in the Mount Mary University School of Arts and Design, (414) 258-4810, ext. 255.

Join us!

The Historic Costume Collection is supported by the Mount Mary Friends of Fashion. Join the Friends of Fashion today by calling (414) 443-3639 and start receiving invitations to signature events, previews and tours; exclusive membership gifts; a subscription to the Friends of Fashion Newsletter and more.

Be a part of the mission to maintain this unique history of fashion that inspires new generations.